Former PPP stalwart Ralph Ramkarran has hailed the APNU/AFC alliance and says it comes right out of the playbook of the late President Dr Cheddi Jagan.
“It is to the credit of the leaderships of the political parties that they were able to compromise and accomplish an agreement in such a short time,” he wrote in his column in the Sunday Stabroek while calling the grouping’s Cummingsburg Accord a creative political strategy. This kind of alliance comes right out of the playbook of Dr Jagan had he been in the same situation, Ramkarran said while noting that as past experience has shown, the late president might even have been prepared to sacrifice the presidency, as he would have done in 1977 or 1985 in favour of the PNC during the worst periods of bitterness between the two parties.
On February 14, APNU and the AFC announced that they will contest the upcoming May 11th general elections as a coalition, with David Granger and Moses Nagamootoo as its presidential and prime ministerial candidates, respectively. The announcement brought to an end weeks of negotiations with the signing of a document dubbed “The Cummingsburg Accord”, formalizing the pre-electoral alliance which both sides are confident can unseat the incumbent PPP/C after 22 years in office.
The accord caters for a joint electoral slate and a 60/40 cabinet split, favouring APNU. They also agreed to reorganize the presidency to delegate more responsibilities to the Prime Minister as well as to select the representative of the electoral list and the Speaker of the House from independent members of civil society. The AFC will choose the Cabinet Secretary.
Ramkarran yesterday noted that not having obtained the presidential candidacy, the AFC has secured the prime ministerial position, chair of the cabinet, control over domestic affairs, including home affairs, agriculture, which oversees the sugar and rice industries where a large portion of PPP supporters are located, the Head of the Presidential Secretariat position, and dominant influence over cabinet appointments.
“The AFC’s campaign will therefore seek to convince PPP supporters that their interests would be protected as part of the national interest. The AFC obviously hopes that this will convince former PPP supporters who voted for the AFC in 2011 to remain and to convince existing PPP supporters to switch sides to the alliance,” he said.
Ramkarran noted that in 1980 and 1985, PNC supporters did not turn out to vote for the PNC despite the overwhelming ‘victory’ of the PNC at those elections.
Apart from being frustrated with their own party, they felt that it would ‘win’ anyway. In 1992, when it was clear that PNC power was threatened, PNC supporters turned out in full force and solidarity, he said.
He pointed out that in 2011, PPP supporters behaved somewhat similarly to PNC supporters in 1980 and 1985, though less extensively so. “Will former or lapsed PPP supporters return to the fold on May 11, 2015 as PNC supporters did in 1992, or remain with the AFC, now in alliance with APNU,” the former Speaker of the National Assembly questioned.
Ramkarran also noted that the Cummingsburg Accord is only the latest in the history of alliances in Guyana’s post-war politics.