Although opposition leader David Granger yesterday said he was confident about an opposition alliance for the upcoming polls, a consensus had not yet been reached between APNU and the AFC up to last night as both sides remained deadlocked on allocating the top government posts.
“Seems we are going down to the wire as we have not yet agreed to the top seven spots,” a source told Stabroek News last evening.
According to the source, the seven posts being negotiated are President, Prime Minister, two Vice-Presidents, Speaker of the National Assembly, Representative or Leader of the List and Deputy Representative of the list.
Both sides agreed that to create a balance of power in government, the top constitutional posts should be broadened and the way to do his was to bring back vice presidential posts, for which the constitution provides.
However, the AFC remains adamant that it be given the two key posts, President and Prime Minister, and the other five can go to the APNU. It also does not want the President to also be the Represen-tative of the List.
APNU, on the other hand, is said to be advocating that one person should hold the two posts and is unwavering on its candidate for the presidential spot.
“APNU… can be flexible if the Prime Minister comes from AFC… the other five key posts be divided to represent a government not skewed to a particular party’s favour, one that is not subject to abuse of power,” the source said.
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 Prime Minister 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 pre-electoral alliance to unseat the PPP/C at upcoming general elections.
Yesterday, Granger, the APNU leader, expressed optimism that the alliance will be formed but stressed that for this to happen there must be compromise. He said negotiations between the two sides were not new as they have met to join forces on a series of issues, including the No-Confidence Motion against government during the 10th Parliament.
“Sometimes it hasn’t worked out but most times we have been able to see eye to eye and we have taken action which is for the national interest so we understand the need for national interest,” Granger said at an APNU press conference yesterday.
“It is impossible for the two sides to get everything that they ask for so I would not like to describe the AFC’s position as seeking too much. All I can say is that in the process of negotiation, we will arrive at an outcome and I am confident that at this point in time that we are close to a satisfactory outcome,” he later added.
Asked by Stabroek News if he would give up his presidential candidate position for the good of country and in the interest of the alliance, he said, “David Granger’s fate is in the hands of the APNU negotiating team and they are aware of my commitment to establishing a pre-election coalition in the national interest.”
He added, “As far as my personal interest is concerned, that is not of interest right now. The national interest is of the greatest concern. That is what we are aiming at, that Guyana must have a good government, a government that has the support of the majority of the people from day clean on May 12th.”
Granger stressed that although the talks are intense, he was confident that negotiators would put the interest of the country as paramount and have a decision reached by today. “…We are confident that by the time Valentine’s Day dawns, there will be good news. We are all aiming at the removal of the PPP. Both the APNU and AFC are convinced that combined action in the form of a pre-election coalition is the best way to remove the PPP… and we are prepared and working to ensure that there is going to be a pre-election coalition in this country,” he said.
Further, he noted that the AFC indicated that it would be meeting today, Valentine’s Day, and as love was synonymous with the day, the party “would like a loving deal.”
Chairman of the AFC Moses Nagamootoo, at a press conference on Thursday, 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 blessing so that the coalition can be formed.
He stressed that he remains optimistic that the talks will yield an alliance of the two opposition parties. “I have no reason to believe that these talks will fail,” Nagamootoo asserted. Both men also stated that they have received overwhelming support from their respective constituencies about forming the alliance.
Many observers believe that an AFC and APNU coalition could claim office from the PPP/C. Separately, the two parties 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.
In early December, AFC leader Khemraj Ramjattan had 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.