Although yesterday’s alliance talks between APNU and the AFC yielded “some fruit” both sides are still locked in heated arguments over who will fill the positions of President and Prime Minister.
The two sides will meet again at 7am today and a source said that “the first order of business is to see if we can come to consensus on the two top spots”.
According to the source, while yesterday’s meeting was gruelling both sides left feeling “some level” of accomplishment as matters of constitutional reform, especially the limiting of presidential powers, had been agreed to.
However, the source said that arriving at an agreement for the President and Prime Minister was not reached with each side remaining adamant that their nominees were the best bet for the alliance.
Sources say that the Alliance For Change is asking for both the presidential and prime ministerial positions on the grounds that they felt it would also be the choice of the majority of the populace.
APNU on the other hand, sources say, has proposed that it be given the presidential spot while the AFC gets the prime ministerial position. APNU is further proposing that the two groups sign an agreement that as soon as they get into office, legislation would be passed to bolster the powers of the PM to lessen the risk of an abuse of powers by the President.
Talks between the AFC and APNU have been ongoing over the past two weeks as the two groups, 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.
According to the source the AFC remains committed to this stance but has proposed that in order to also have balance, key positions such as the speaker of the house would be given to APNU in addition to lessening the powers of the President.
The source said that both parties also proposed a formula for the composition of the cabinet but they are still stuck on this.
The source said the AFC proposed a 50/50 Cabinet make-up while APNU proposed 80/20 in its favour. However at the end of the day those numbers were changed and the two sides were locked at 60/40 in APNU’s favour as proposed by the AFC and 80/20 in APNU’s favour as proposed by APNU.
However the AFC is said to be willing to consider changing its numbers today depending on what tradeoffs are made by APNU.
Both sides are so optimistic of an alliance that a committee has been selected to determine campaign modalities.
Executives of the AFC will decide on the way forward, on Valentine’s Day for a possible electoral alliance but Chairman of the Party, Moses Nagamootoo at a press conference yesterday said that today’s date was not “set in stone” or a “drop dead deadline”.
He explained that his party wants to take “tangibles” to its executives in the hope of garnering their blessings so that the coalition can be formed.
He stressed that he remains optimistic that the talks will yield a pro-democracy alliance of the two opposition parties. “I have no reason to believe that these talks will fail,” Nagamootoo asserted.
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.