‘Intense’ APNU-AFC talks at key stage

With consensus on many of the proposals drafted still elusive, it seems that talks between APNU and the AFC will run into their Saturday, 14th February deadline.

“The meetings are not finished and will continue right into Saturday so that tells you how intense,” a source told Stabroek News yesterday.

Stabroek News understands that the talks are at such a critical stage that there is much “arguing and debating” going on between the two sides who are still to make decisions on Presidential and Prime Ministerial candidates, the structure of their Cabinet should they get into power and areas of constitutional reform to be addressed first.

However, a source said that both sides are eager to “see the backs of the PPP” and that they are doing their utmost to ensure that an agreement is realized so that the AFC can report positives to their members come Saturday and get their “blessings for the coalition”.

“I think the country has reached a point where there is a crying need for change, too much corruption, maladministration, problem-prone projects and so forth…both parties see the agitation in their supporters and know the importance this time around of an alliance and (they) will do what the people want.”

Talks between the AFC and APNU have been ongoing over the past two weeks as the two parties, with members of civil society, attempt to forge a pro-democracy alliance to unseat the PPP/C at upcoming general elections.

Many observers believe that an AFC and APNU coalition could claim office from the PPP/C after they attracted more votes in total than the ruling party at the last general elections. The PPP/C, however, as the party with the single most votes, managed to retain the presidency although it lost the majority in the National Assembly.

Other civil society voices have also signalled the intention to enter the fray. Former Auditor General Anand Goolsarran is said to be contemplating forming a party to contest the planned May 11, 2015 general elections while social activist Mark Benschop will also be running for office. In the coming days it is likely that others will come forward.

In early December, AFC leader Khemraj Ramjattan stated that the AFC is prepared to lead a pro-democracy alliance of progressive forces, inclusive of   the opposition coalition APNU, to remove the PPP/C government from office. Ramjattan had also indicated that the “progressive forces” should comprise civic groups, workers unions, and political forces, including even disaffected PPP leaders and members. He had further emphasized that the AFC must lead this alliance.

Executives of the AFC will decide on the way forward, on Valentine’s Day, for a possible electoral alliance with the main opposition APNU, if by the time they meet they are able to broker a deal.

Stabroek News was told that the AFC has expressed concern about the impact to its support base of mainly Indo-Guyanese if their candidate is not given the presidency post while APNU has made it clear that the coalition feels that yielding to a request for the post on the grounds of race is hypocritical to its position of national unity.

Sources have related that the AFC negotiators have said that they want to be able to tell their supporters that the AFC will have the presidential post. But, given APNU’s position, according to the source, one proposal is that should the alliance come to fruition, it could head into general elections with an APNU presidential candidate and an AFC prime ministerial candidate.

The source said that while there have been proposals for a rotating presidency this will not be the focus of the talks over the next few days as they are discussing candidates for the two top   positions and will then address what campaign strategies will be used. This newspaper was told that the level of trust had become a stumbling block during the talks, particularly as it relates to who gets the presidency first. APNU is adamant that it gets the first round for the presidency, Stabroek News was told. The source said that trust between the two sides is not where it should be and each party fears that once in office, the other partner could turn into a “different animal.”

While expressing optimism, the source said that the overall agreement for the coalition has to be tightly documented so as to give each other a certain level of security and help to build trust.

One political guru rubbished the “trust factor” saying “in politics you have to trust and that is what forms the whole basis of decisions being made. That what they are saying is foolishness.”

On rotating of the presidency, the observer said that method seems a last resort and “desperation stage” but stressed that in politics anything can happen.

“Politics being politics you have to expect the unexpected and prepare for the unprepared,” the observer said.

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