The Alliance For Change and A Partnership for National Unity – the governing coalition partners – on Monday held an ice-breaking meeting and are set to begin substantive talks this weekend that will determine if they will contest local government elections together.
Following the preliminary meeting, APNU’s team stated that it is optimistic that an agreement will be swiftly met.
“This was just a preliminary meeting …It was very good. Looking forward…with great optimism,” APNU General Secretary Joseph Harmon told Stabroek News yesterday when contacted.
His AFC’s counterpart Marlon Williams could not be reached for comment although the party promised to issue a statement on Monday evening.
Harmon informed that the two sides will meet again at its first substantive session “either Saturday or Monday of next week, any of those two days” while pointing out that he was upbeat and looking forward to it.
The AFC has said it will press its governing coalition partner for an accord on local government elections.
Any such accord could see the AFC – which holds twelve of the coalition seats in the National Assembly – being assigned a certain number of seats in the city council and in local government organs where it is presumed to have support.
Sources close to the negotiations told this newspaper that while the AFC will start its proposals at a 60 percent to 40 percent share of LGE seats, in favour of the APNU, it will be willing to accept an eighty percent to 20 percent split.
The AFC’s team is comprised of three persons with Minister of Public Infrastructure David Patterson and the Party General Secretary Williams leading the delegation. Member of Parliament Michael Carrington is the other person.
Patterson is known for his vocal positions on matters and he has told the NEC that he favours the party going to the LGE polls alone with the latter view shared by Carrington.
Sources at the AFC’s last NEC meeting say that members have a lot of confidence in sending Patterson to bargain for the party. “Patto (Patterson) don’t play with words and in expressing how he feels on certain issues. He believes in the AFC and its cause and that it came to be the balance of power. When things are not going how the people want you can expect him to represent the grass roots,” one executive said.
Harmon has also expressed confidence that he and his party will amicably and speedily resolve issues when they sit down with the AFC. He has said that both sides believe that they are stronger together and will work towards that common goal.
“As you are aware this was a matter that was raised sometime before and the letter basically trusts the issues in relation to the Cummingsburg Accord (of February 14, 2015). We have indicated that the president has said that we are better together. And therefore, we see no reason why we should go separately. I believe that there was a statement from the AFC to that effect that we would wish to go together. There is a commonality of purpose here in this regard and the direction we would go,” Harmon stated.
“The issues that are there are minor; timing and perceptions and things like that. I don’t believe that they are so serious as to affect the congeniality that exists between our two parties. We have the issue in relation to the number of seats people get, in relation to the local government elections, because there was no formula which had been established under the Cummingsburg Accord for determining that and these are some of the issues which I believe that we have to discuss,” he added.