The outcome of the May 11 election will come down to strategy and not mere size

Dear Editor,

I wish to respond to a news item, ‘Rotating presidency on table,’ and a letter, ‘When did this change in ideology happen?’ that appeared in SN on February 9. In the first instance, this rotating presidency concept was first mooted between Raphael Trotman and Khemraj Ramjattan in 2005 when the AFC was launched.

Back then, the AFC made clear that it wanted to break the back of ethnic voting as practised by both the PPP and PNC, so not only did the party refuse to ever form an alliance with either the PPP or PNC, but the rotating presidency concept was seen as a symbol of hope for those still stuck in ethnic insecurity mode. Mr Trotman was the presidential candidate in 2006, while Mr Ramjattan was the presidential candidate in 2011. Of course the AFC did not win the plurality of the votes in either election, but did pick up five and seven parliamentary seats, respectively.

Apparently the rotating concept in the AFC was eventually shelved as the party did a volte face at its last Congress and offered to lead a pro-democracy alliance with APNU and other civil society forces. The volte face did surprise many observers, but then it soon became clear to many that the exigencies of the political situation in Guyana had changed so dramatically in the last three years, that rigidity had to give way to flexibility if Guyana was to be saved from the PPP.

The inevitable ensuing debate, as to whether the smaller AFC should lead a coalition that included the larger APNU or whether another Indian should be leading the nation via a coalition, soon gained momentum. Except for the isolated instances of race-baiting and hate-mongering, it was and still is a largely healthy debate that allowed for deep-seated racial fears and insecurities to surface so they can be intelligently addressed.

I offered my two cents worth of opinion on the SN blog site on the smaller-versus-bigger partner issue by constantly adverting to the fact that this May 11 election is going to come down to strategy and not mere size. The PPP knows it is haemorrhaging support among its traditional base of Indians, but may still eke out a win to form another minority government if APNU and the AFC were to contend independently. If APNU and the AFC were to resolve outstanding differences and run as a team, however, conventional wisdom says that, with backing from prominent civil society stakeholders who cut across racial lines, they could unseat the PPP.

So the first tedious strategy is to form an alliance. The next strategy, a little trickier, is deciding who leads the alliance. Yes, APNU has a larger support base among African Guyanese and should logically lead the alliance, but since the aim is to unseat the PPP, which has always enjoyed greater numerical support among Indians, then strategic thinking dictates energies and efforts be directed at undermining the PPP where it is most vulnerable: its base. APNU may not pull this off; the AFC more likely can, so bets should be hedged on the AFC to play the lead role in this alliance.

But what about those APNU supporters who believe APNU can still pull it off while leading the alliance or even on its own? Well, they have a right to be heard and even be considered, but in this particular numbers game, strategy, not size, is what will win. That is my thinking. Nevertheless, to allow the main players a sense of their own relevance and value to the process, I think a level playing field or shared platform could go a long way in helping advocates and agents of change achieve their dream of regime change in 2015.

About two weeks ago, one of the SN bloggers proposed that the rotating presidency concept should be considered if the APNU-AFC talks bear positive fruit. I immediately latched on to the proposition because I firmly believe that it can go a far way towards assuaging the fears or concerns from supporters of either two parties who may share a common goal but differ on strategy.

In fact, both APNU and AFC do share a common goal that says, if either wins the plurality of the votes, the winner would invite the other to help form and run the government. Once that commonality of interest was made known, I concluded that if they are willing to work together after elections, they should seek ways to work together before elections. At least both will have sufficient time to make some early determinations.

The rotating presidency concept, therefore, though not a guaranteed panacea for what ails Guyana, may still be the necessary baby steps that can evolve into giant leaps towards viable solutions, but we won’t know for sure if the baby steps are not taken. Matter of fact, the mere fact that APNU and AFC are even talking about an alliance – unheard of in 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014 – is proof positive that if men and women put their minds together to work towards a common good, nothing can stop them.

Mistakes will be made, since we are talking here about imperfect humans, but it is the ability to rise again and learn from the mistakes that can determine the difference between more of the same under the PPP and a world of difference under a transparent, accountable and responsible coalition.

Let me close by saying that, in reference to all the talk about the role of race in the current APNU-AFC dialogue, there is an actual rat race in Guyana to see who can get more public cheese than the other. That is the race we need to stop! So let us stop worrying interminably over who wields the race card and focus on strategizing how to save what is left of the suffering human race in Guyana. There is a race to be won, and Guyanese are counting on true political leaders to lead us to victory.

 

Yours faithfully,
Emile Mervin

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