I wish to add some analysis to the move by the Alliance for Change (AFC) to contest the Local Government Elections (LGE) independently from its A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) government partner. I also wish to respond to some of Dr. David Hinds’ comments in articles published on August 6, in the Stabroek News titled ‘AFC being forced to prove ‘electoral worth’ with solo campaign’ and in the Kaieteur News ‘AFC’s decision to contest LGE solo leaves it politically exposed’. I am of the view like Dr Hinds, that the decision does leave AFC politically exposed but I believe that the party will do exceptionally well at the LGE.
My reasons for this conclusion are as follows: I don’t believe that our political leaders really understand the psyche of the current electorate. Many Guyanese have bought into the idea of coalition politics because they see this approach as a practical solution or the only solution for moving the development of the country forward. After 52 years of independence, with oil on the horizon and a multiethnic society; coalition politics has to be our approach to governance.
The coalition government came into office with unbelievable goodwill. I mean unbelievable! I met an East Indian brother of mine about two days after the May, 2015 elections and he said to me with much glee in his eyes and voice, ‘Audreyanna, every intelligent Indian person I know, voted for the ‘coalition’ (No disrespect meant, I am just quoting to make a point). I thought, whoa, this coalition thing was taken seriously. I spoke to another East Indian friend of mine a few days ago and he said, ‘I voted for Granger, not anybody else’. I thought whoa…
I basically highlighted two elements of the 2015 elections which attracted East Indians to vote for the coalition government. While I singled out one ethnicity, even though many other groups had issues with the PNC party, the 2015 elections was hardly about the PNC; it was about, the PPP party versus the possibility of a coalition government. This was intriguing it made the impossible seem possible. Those who thought that Guyana could never get better because of the approach of the two major political parties to governance became enthused again. People who did not vote for years, voted for, as they fondly would say, ‘I voted for the coalition’.
Let’s fast forward to the 2018 LGE, AFC is a key part of the coalition concept. However, many coalition supporters, not members; because the coalition government does not have members like the individual parties do, it has supporters. Hence, what is critical, for the coalition government, is not how to keep and increase membership on roll but how to maintain and increase its supporters.
As I was saying, many coalition supporters are not happy with how the coalition has been working as a government, for example the quality of the relationships, to some extent, the quality of its leadership, delivery of campaign commitments, such as Constitutional Reform, lack of proper structure, strategic thinking and planning, as well as the general leader-people relationship (some Ministers apparently changed their numbers after they got into office), among others.
I am saying that, the expectations when the coalition government came to office in 2015 were high, very high, and over the past three years, many of these supporters have become disappointed, very disappointed, some to the point of disillusionment. There is a general perception among the coalition government supporters that the people in government are not listening or are not listening enough. Therefore, my prediction is that the decision of the AFC to go alone to the LGE has given many of these persons an option. While many persons still would like to see the coalition concept work, the LGE could be a ‘tough love’ reaction. I am of the view that many persons will vote for the AFC to teach the APNU a lesson. What is the lesson, that the people want the coalition concept to work.
The challenge for the PNCR will be that while a large percentage of votes for the 2015 elections came from their traditional constituencies, it would be inaccurate to conclude that those voters were PNCR supporters. A large percentage of the voting population, are young people who do not have the affinity to the PNCR like those persons over 50 or 60. What many young people know is about PPP, AFC, APNU and ‘Coalition’. The affinity is more towards the AFC, APNU and ’Coalition’. So my analysis is that many persons under 40, particularly under 30 years in the traditional PNCR constituencies, will vote for the AFC with the approach to governance over the past three years being a key stimulus.
Another point on the PNCR is that President Granger may have his issues, but he is still seen among certain groups as a major asset for the government. The President still has huge credibility on areas of integrity and honesty and being in touch with his human side. There is a general perception that he commands respect on the regional and international stage and does well in mobilizing international interest; however, that has to be supported more with good technical follow up and follow through.
This LGE, the players are changing, the ‘Granger factor’ is receding in the PNCR while other players are emerging and these other players are yet to distinguish themselves, I will leave it there.
Based on these and other factors, it is my view that the AFC will do very well at the LGE in November but the party would have to campaign hard and be strategic, particularly since they are still a part of the Coalition.
Remember what many citizens want is a ‘coalition government’!
Citizen Audreyanna Thomas