What transpired in the National Assembly on Friday evening was always a distinct possibility, ,with the Government’s one seat majority. Election results mean something. In 2011, the electorate told the PPP/C that it wants that party to join in a coalition to manage the affairs of the nation. The PPP/C ignored the message. The electorate removed it from office in 2015. Then it proceeded to give the APNU+AFC coalition a mere one seat majority. This conveyed another message – that the APNU+AFC coalition government should proceed cautiously and engage with the Opposition.
The coalitionlikewise ignored the message, overreached and governed as if it had a sweeping mandate. Now, like the PPP, it has paid the price. Arrogance, meaning the ignoring of the message of the electorate, rather than humility, that is, frequent consultation with, and listening to, the concerns of supporters and backbenchers, such as Mr. Charrandas Persaud, appears to be an ingrained habit of the main political parties.
An interview was given by Mr. Charrandas Persaud after the vote in the National Assembly. Whether or not he had given prior indication to the Opposition that he would support a no confidence motion, his answers were unrehearsed and rational. He mentioned two occasions on which he disagreed with his party’s leadership. But he painfully expressed the loss of any influence over what he alleged was the unilateraldirection that the leadership of the AFC was taking the party,and the plight of sugar workers, who the AFC had vowed to protect, but 7,000 of whom ended up losing their jobs. Mr. Persaud’s disappointment with his party is shared by many former supporters as their widespread abandonment of the AFC at the local government elections demonstrated. The AFC had a golden opportunity to keep its promise to the Guyanese people of holding APNU to the high standards that it said it was committed to. But it failed to do so, to the disappointment of many, including Mr. Persaud.
Guyana has now had two governments of the main parties whose terms lasted for only three years. It suggests that a degree of instability has crept into the political landscape. It cannot be predicted whether this will continue. Even if it does, it is preferable to the 20+ year entrenchment in office that Guyana has been a victim of in the past. It is hoped that the electorate can be persuaded to consider a model whereby the main parties are kept below an absolute majority and are forced to compete for the support of smaller parties to stay in office. One party majoritarianism will not resolve the problems arising from Guyana’s ethno-politics. The electorate did not succeed in 2011 and 2015. It can still succeed if it is still motivated to hold the major parties in check.
Guyana will be having elections in three months, with the two main parties being led by different persons, that is to say,persons who are not the current heads of the parties. The PPP is in the process of selecting its presidential candidate. President Granger’s chemotherapy treatment is likely to continue into and beyond the election period and the likelihood is that his recovery will not be complete by that time and he might not be able to endure the rigours of an election campaign. Smaller parties, already established and soon to be established, will be gearing up within the limited time available to contest the elections and test the potential of Guyana to develop beyond the rigid ethno-political system that has dominated the country’s politics since Independence.
It will be a matter of the greatest interest to observe whether the APNU+AFC (if the coalition holds) will repeat the promise of reforming the Constitution to provide for a government that includes more than a single political force. And if it promises, it will be interesting to see what guarantees are given this time around, if any, that those promises will be kept. While the PPP did not make any such promises in the 2015 election campaign, it said that it would not oppose constitutional reform. The PPP may well consider that the time has come for consideration to be given to bringing an end to one party majority rule. Every thinking Guyanese, except those active in our main political parties, is aware that the complex issues relating to the management of Guyana’s oil resources needs all hands on deck, including both political parties. The size and complexity of the tasks yet to be accomplished suggest that no single political party can satisfy the nation that their interests are being protected.
The electorate has spoken twice, in 2011 and 2015. It has declared it preference for Guyana to start a new journey, one without the monolithic domination of one or the other major political party. Despite the suddenness with which the fall of the APNU+AFC Government took place and the limited time for new elections, it is hoped that these concerns of the electorate will be addressed in the election campaign.