Henry Jeffery, Stabroek

We all cut from the same cloth

By  stabroek news august 15, 2018

Because it has so visibly betrayed the agenda of most of the people who have supported it from the inception, predicting the disaster that will befall the Alliance for Change (AFC) at the local government elections (LGE) scheduled for later this year has become something of a national pastime. So much so, that few people even believe its explanation of why it is going to  those elections independent of its coalition partner. In other words, what should have been viewed as normal for a coalition partner is seen as either being the result of compulsion or the kind of political deceit at which the PPP and PNC are masters. The AFC came on the political scene claiming to represent a new political morality but instead has become a textbook case of how quickly political power can corrupt!

Seasoned as I am to political duplicity, I still cannot believe that the AFC is today anywhere near where most of its leaders intended it to be even on election night 2015, but having been, with good intentions, forced into bed with a master capable of making crass political opportunism appear the epitome of self-preservation, good sense and morality, it did not truly grasp the slippery slope one important act of betrayal constituted and the repercussions it could have for the entire body politic.

When coupled with Guyana’s political history, the AFC’s deception and its swift descent into the political morass has made future efforts at social transformation extremely difficult, for although you might not have thought it possible, political veracity has declined even further, leaving the populace with what may well be the only sensible explanation – ‘Wha’ you expect? We all cut from the same cloth!’

Everything I know about coalition politics suggests that predictions of the demise of the AFC are correct but ‘to maintain their integrity, autonomy and future electability, all coalition parties must be prepared to face the electorate … not to be prepared to go to the polls is to concede that you do not have sufficiently important different ideological and policy positions to defend and have effectively merged’ (APNU+AFC is a single entity. SN: 11/04/2018). Coalition governments are usually rewarded or punished as a whole for their performance, but smaller coalition partners are also expected to demonstrate some independence and enhance their public profile to be in a position to convince the public that they have made distinct contributions.

Generally, the APNU+AFC coalition has not been particularly effective and given its short period in office, it has been mired in as many allegations of corruption as its predecessor. Where the leadership of the AFC is concerned, far from having anything positive to showcase to the politically vacillating public, think on issues surrounding ExxonMobil, the chair of the Guyana Elections Commission, Guysuco, etc, and it becomes obvious that a case can be made that it has contributed as much, if not more than APNU, to the negative view of the government.

In a nutshell, the AFC explained that it is going to the local government elections independently because it could not reach agreement with APNU on the allocation of local government positions. What concerns me is that the AFC has been extremely loyal to the coalition, is likely to be wiped out at the polls, but from the song and dance both parties are making about the coalition being intact for the 2020 elections, it appears that the AFC did not take proper advantage of its major value to the coalition. After all, it will be extremely difficult for the APNU to substantiate a creditable ‘win’ in 2020 without the AFC at its side.

 Although important, going to elections independently is only one aspect of the struggle with which coalition partners, particularly smaller ones, must deal on a daily basis. As trade unions need to be able to strike if they are to be taken seriously, so coalition partners need each other to understand that they are prepared to walk from the partnership if they are not treated with respect. This being  so, at the very least simple strategy would have suggested that the AFC leave its position on the 2020 elections coalition ambiguous to place greater pressure upon APNU to take it seriously.

henry j

Not surprising then, some believe that the AFC going to elections alone is merely a coalition ruse to make it appear more independent than it really is and that it will soon change its position, claiming that some kind of an agreement has been arrived at with APNU. Others, the PPP/C for example, will have us believe that to make the AFC appear independent in the hope of winning essentially Indian support, the coalition is strategizing its support on the ground in a manner it hopes will enhance the credibility of the AFC. Then there is the notion that with the international community beginning to show an interest in our broken political system, the coalition needs to demonstrate that the ‘national unity government’ it claims it represents is more than a fiction.

My take on this issue is that the AFC is complicit with APNU in regards to the 2020 elections and the main reason for its being so is the very reason we do not have constitutional reforms that could have made the AFC a truly independent party and positively transform the governance structure in Guyana. It is because the AFC prioritises being in government and APNU wants to remain the senior partner in government and what they have promised in their manifesto and customary political thought would not allow this to happen!

Both parties badly needs the AFC to make a creditable showing at the LGE to give the impression that it is not the wreck it is thought to be but is a credible partner capable of helping the coalition to take the elections in 2020. Both of these parties know that because of their abysmal record in relation to Indian interest (indicated above) they have zero chance of getting many votes from that source, and if it does not project the intention of staying in the coalition with APNU, even with various in-house arrangements and bottom-house cajoling, many Africans will still not be motivated to vote for the AFC.

This is the reality with which we must now deal for contrary to the nonsense that frequently came from the PPP/C about Guyana having the most progressive constitution in the Caribbean, to be efficacious, constitutions must reflect the extant needs of a society. It is for this reason that I recommended something like the Swiss model of national governance with its annually rotating presidency, that address the above concerns of the coalition parties and in effect also denudes the presidency of nearly all of the negatives associated with it (Ending ethnic political conflict. SN 27/12/2017).


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