The decision made by the Alliance For Change (AFC) to contest the upcoming local government elections alone is not a cause for concern, President David Granger said yesterday, while making it clear that A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) respects the decision made by its coalition government partner.
“It is my view that both the AFC and the APNU remain committed to coalition politics and this in no way will damage the prospect of our two parties going into the general and region elections as one,” Granger told reporters shortly before he left the Botanical Gardens, where he attended a commemorative ceremony for the 33rd death anniversary of the First Prime Minister and First Executive President Linden Forbes Sampson Burnham.
In a brief interview, Granger stressed that the AFC’s decision would have been a party one. He added that there was an exchange of memoranda and that APNU had drafted its own core principles which were submitted to the AFC for their consideration.
He did not make mention of those principles but State Minister Joseph Harmon did during a post-Cabinet press briefing held later in the day.
Harmon informed reporters that the principles, which related to representation, the organisation, mobilisation and communication, among other things, were to be the platform upon which the two parties would have gone to the polls as one.
Neither Granger nor Harmon identified the area or areas where consensus was not reached or what exactly lead to the breakdown in talks.
“I don’t know about the internal decision-making in the AFC but we respect their decision and AFC, I think, respects the decision within the APNU,” Granger noted, before pointing out that the upcoming elections are a local matter. “It’s entirely a political party matter but we do not feel there is any danger that the coalition is in jeopardy,” he stressed.
Meanwhile, Harmon signaled his agreement with all that the president had said hours after. He was asked what may have led to the AFC deciding to go to the polls alone.
He spoke of the two parties exchanging memoranda. Harmon quickly pointed out that the AFC, as a result of its own internal process, decided what was in its best interest and the APNU did the same. “Primarily, I want to say it is a political decision and in the view of the president… I fully support that view that that will not jeopardise or damage the relationship within the coalition and it will not jeopardise or damage our prospects of winning the 2020 elections,” he said.
He opined that the move by the AFC allows for persons on the ground to make certain decisions for themselves.
Harmon noted that there is a wide range of contestants in such an elections, such as individuals, groups and political parties. “It is about local democracy and irrespective of which political party you represent, you have to be representative of a particular area and, therefore, it is the people in that area [who] will determine whether in fact you are a suitable person to be their representative,” he said.
The AFC made its announcement on Sunday, after months of sporadic talks between the two sides.
In a statement, the party said that the “… decision was reached following the inconclusive negotiations with APNU.” It added that the decision only applied to local government elections and did not, in any way, affect the APNU+AFC coalition government or change the AFC’s position on coalition politics at the national level. “The AFC remains, and reaffirms that it is, committed to the APNU+AFC Coalition,” it added.
The statement said that the party’s Management Committee has resolved into the Campaign Committee for the upcoming polls, with David Patterson as Campaign Director and Juretha Fernandes as Deputy Campaign Director. Appointments to other positions will be done subsequently, it noted.
“The AFC is in full preparation mode for [local government elections], including hosting meetings in the various constituencies and identifying potential candidates who will be subject to a rigorous internal vetting process before official appointment. Candidates will be addressing the local issues which are of concern to citizens and working collaboratively to find practical and implementable solutions,” it said.
“The party is currently determining which municipalities and constituencies it will strategically contest as it does not envision contesting in each Neighbourhood Democratic Council and in every constituency of all municipalities until subsequent election cycles,” it added.
In April, AFC Chairman Khemraj Ramjattan appeared certain that the coalition would head to the polls as one. It was shortly after that it became evident that there were some disagreements.
It would appear that the AFC members had already made up their minds about going solo following a National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting focusing solely on the Local Government Elections (LGE), which was held in June. It is unclear why it decided to delay the announcement.
The party had said after the meeting had ended that it had decided that it will continue to campaign on its own and will begin identifying its candidates.
Senior party members appeared confident that the party will come out successfully if it contested on its own, especially in Georgetown. “All we want is a voice …a few seats…and I am confident that we will get that,” one party insider had said.