Granger not best choice for opposition alliance – Jeffrey

APNU leader David Granger was not the best choice for the presidential candidate for the APNU+AFC alliance, according to political analyst Dr Henry Jeffrey.

In his column in yesterday’s Stabroek News, Jeffrey said that while the alliance was a necessary condition if the PPP is to be defeated, to mitigate the negative consequences, he believes that significant compensation should have been made on the other side of the equation. According to Jeffrey, one of the most obvious concerns as it relates to the AFC and APNU forming a coalition, was that many of the Indians who, disillusioned by the PPP in 2011 and perhaps not expecting them to lose even if they did not vote for it, would now vote for the PPP, or at best from the opposition standpoint, abstain from voting.

On February 14, following weeks of negotiations, APNU and the AFC signed an agreement – the Cummingsburg Accord – which has seen the two parties uniting under a single banner for the May 11 general elections. The coalition named Granger as its presidential candidate and AFC executive Moses Nagamootoo as the prime ministerial candidate.

While there have been criticisms of the two parties coming together many believe that this is the best shot they have at defeating the PPP/C. The PPP/C slate is headed by President Donald Ramotar with Elisabeth Harper as his running mate.

Jeffrey said that he does not believe that the choice of Granger as the presidential candidate was the best one. “Indeed, in my view, choosing an African/former PNC/ former army individual exacerbated the situation.

We like to accuse the PPP of burying their heads in the sand, but quite apart from Mr. Granger being an African, his former roles allow the PPP to develop and sell a forceful propaganda narrative to the two most strategic racial groups: the Indians and Amerindians,” he wrote.

The parties to the alliance were aware of some of these difficulties, but in dealing with them they unnecessarily opened even more doors for the PPP propagandists, Jeffrey charged. “For example, the very people who have perennially pilloried the PPP/C for making an amoral constitutional arrangement that the presidency will always go to the PPP are now proposing unconstitutional – and in my view useless – approaches to assuage ethnic concerns,” he said.

He explained that over the years, the opposition have been saying that all the political/managerial power in Guyana rests in the presidency and that the position of prime minister is a joke. “Now, in an effort to placate Indian ethnic concerns that will likely arise because of their own permutations, they seek to make that position important by telling us, inter alia, that the PM will chair the cabinet,” he said.

According to Jeffrey, Nagamootoo knows that constitutional responsibility for chairing the cabinet rests with the president but that under Cheddi Jagan, cabinet was actually chaired by ministers. “There is no political value to it. In the early days, Jagan even adopted the radical principle of cabinet voting rather than working by consensus,” he said.

“Furthermore, Jagan moved everyone to the rank of minister and paid them as senior ministers with the political cry both before and after he came to office that these offices encouraged too much self-importance and pomp.

The coalition returned to them merely to give status and encourage pomp. I hope that the benchmark that the alliance has adopted is not the present PPP but that of Cheddi Jagan,” he said.

He stated that the PPP’s approach at Babu John was predictable. “While we are on Babu John, Cheddi Jagan and an election in which much is rightly being made of financial impropriety, it might be useful for the opposition to reflect upon the contention that stealing is not the worst crime in politics and that political naivety is much worse,” he said.

According to Jeffrey, it appears to him that the political parties that were involved in the APNU/AFC coalition formation proceeded as if the PPP is so broken and discarded that its responses would not matter or would be worth very little. “In a sense they are right: our political battles are usually ethnic struggles and more than is usual in normal political situations, most people have already made up their minds for which party they will cast their ballots,” he said.

Nonetheless, Jeffrey said that the coming attempt to remove the PPP/C will be closely fought and as such, small margins matter.

In the propaganda battle, every step in the process of building and presenting the coalition should therefore be proceeded with only after properly assessing the possible responses of the PPP, he said.

“For better or for worse, the alliance is now the only feasible alternative for our preventing the dangers of an ethnically based government being in office for more than quarter of a century,” he added.

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