There can be no doubt that with the end of the road approaching, the APNU+AFC coalition is in a mess. It is a mess of their own creation and they are losing sympathy. In this era of slim majorities, instead of going into opposition and planning for victory in 2025, they decided to go rogue. This is a route that APNU has travelled before, between 1968 and 1992, under a different name and in a different era. It has no future, long or short term. Today, instead of promoting the worthy aspects of Burnham’s legacy, they have chosen to embrace the worst. It would mark them forever as a party that cheats, that cannot be trusted with political office. The people of Guyana, including their own supporters, as in the past, will pay the price.
The mess started first with the majority of 65. Was it 33 or 34? Justice Wit of the CCJ said: “You know it when you see it.” APNU+AFC couldn’t see it. Second, APNU+AFC argued that the CCJ did not set a date. Therefore, it was open to them to hold elections at any time they choose. The September 18, 2019 deadline was ignored and elections held on March 2, 2020. Third, misrepresentations about the Eslyn David decision has proliferated. One was the assertion of the Minister of Foreign Affairs in her letter to the OAS, that the CCJ “invalidated the Recount Process.” Fourth, in the Misenga Jones case just completed before the Chief Justice, Mr. Joe Harmon complained that “fraudulent” votes were not taken into account. He is right, but not in the way that he meant. His lawyers are arguing for the ten declarations of the returning officers to be accepted as the lawful results. These results include the 115,000 “fraudulent” votes, dumped by Keith Lowenfield, the CEO, about which Mr. Harmon is complaining.
In a wide-ranging decision of compelling clarity in the Misenga Jones case, the Chief Justice dismissed all the familiar arguments and found that the only lawful results are those emanating from the recount. Unless the Court of Appeal or the CCJ reverses the Chief Justice’s decision, a declaration from GECOM based on the recount results becomes inevitable and APNU+AFC would have to respond.
The first possibility, and one that appears to be the most likely, is that APNU+AFC will brazen it out and refuse to give up power. But how will that work? If the GECOM declaration is not accepted, a President cannot be sworn in and Parliament cannot be convened. The President and Government would be officially illegal. Spending, the most important lubricant of a lawful and democratic government, is now limited under Article 219(3) of the Constitution to the public services until budget estimates and an Appropriations Bill are passed. Signs of illegal spending are already obvious. There is no law, instrument, mechanism or device in existence that would enable an illegal government to govern legally, or with a modicum of normalcy. The PNC (1968-1992) had a democratic façade ensconced within a dictatorship, or maybe vice versa. APNU+AFC in 2020 would be naked.
To reject GECOM’s declaration and stay in office, a full-blown, military or military-backed coup would have to be effected. A group of civilians, or of the military, or a combination of both, backed officially or unofficially by the security forces positioned, as if ready for battle at sensitive points, would have to declare that it is taking over the reins of government. Parliamentary rule, some institutions, civil liberties and other constitutional rights, such as habeas corpus, facilitating unlimited detention without trial, would be suspended. Two of the most important, freedom of speech and freedom of movement, would be curtailed. The daily newspapers and news outlets would be shut down. Gatherings and meetings would be prohibited. Citizens will be followed by security agents. Spying will be intensified. Arrests of, and violence against political activists and the public would be a high probability. Ubiquitous state security would be part of daily life. There would be rule by proclamation. There would be political and financial isolation by the international community. Poverty will escalate.
There is an alternative road for Guyana. APNU+AFC cannot protect their supporters by dishonest means. But it can do so by going into opposition and seeking to obtain the support of the majority of the electorate at the next election, which is possible. Such opposition can only succeed if it offers a creative political agenda – one that protects its own supporters while giving political security to the supporters of the PPP. Such a policy of shared governance, which APNU+AFC abandoned to its detriment and that of its own supporters in 2015, will be a transformative political development. Shared governance will eliminate the struggle for ethno-political dominance, restore political stability, trigger economic development and provide ethnic security for all. With international support, APNU+AFC would put a PPP government under enormous pressure to concede and, if sustained, they would.
It will take political courage to eat humble pie and reverse course as an opposition, but this is the only way out unless APNU+AFC chooses to repeat the 1968-1992 PNC’s torture of Guyana.