Feb 03, 2019
There has been a lot of discussion about who should head the Coalition ticket at the upcoming election if the parties decide to run together again. Given the president’s recent health challenges, there were some doubts about his capacity to remain at the helm. However, from all indications, he is rearing and ready to go. Although there has not been any formal declaration, all the parties, except the WPA, have indicated that he is their choice.
In the end, that decision lies with the PNC, the largest party in the coalition. There were murmurs that some of the leaders of that party had begun positioning themselves to take the top spot when it was not certain whether Mr. Granger would be available.
The problem is that none of those leaders appeared to have the full backing of the party. It is also not clear whether the other parties in the Coalition would have automatically signed off on any of those contenders. The problem for the PNC is that the persons who appear to have the credentials to succeed Granger in leading the Coalition and the country are outside of the party’s inner circle.
So, Mr. Granger’s availability may have saved the party and the coalition some embarrassment. Unlike the PPP, the PNC does not have anyone who has the stature of kingmaker—the person who can deliver the position to a given candidate. Robert Corbin played that role when Granger assumed the leadership of the party and coalition, but he does not seem to be as active in the party’s inner workings as he used to be. It is also worth remembering that Granger was recruited from the fringe of the party to take up the leadership.
The jury is still out on Mr. Granger’s success as a leader. I cannot speak very much on his leadership of the PNC, largely because since he assumed that position, most of his energy has been placed on leading APNU and the government. The truth is that when a party is in government, the top leaders who hold government positions neglect the party, largely because it is very difficult to function in both capacities. The exceptions were the Burnham and Jagdeo governments, when the party and the government were institutionally merged in what became known as paramountcy of the party.
I have a lot of issues with Mr. Granger as manager of the Coalition. His apparent decision to isolate the role of APNU and the non-government AFC to the very periphery of decision-making was a grave mistake. This, in addition to the decision to confine decision-making to the Cabinet and the Presidency, eventually brought down the government. A coalition is not a single-party entity, and a one-seat majority is a precarious mandate that calls for shrewd, tactical political management, which I think eluded Mr. Granger.
However, if the coalition is facing the electorate in its current configuration, I will support him as the presidential candidate. I do so from two standpoints.
First, despite his failings as a political manager, he has been a success as the face and conscience of the nation. He brought legitimacy back to the presidency—he was the first president since Desmond Hoyte and Dr. Jagan that engendered respect across the political divide. I honestly think that while most Indian Guyanese preferred the PPP in office, they do not disrespect Mr. Granger.
It has a lot to do with the perception that he is a decent man who is not corrupt, and who is not going to be unfair to other ethnic groups. I don’t think a majority of the general population thinks that he is racist. He is not a man of scandals. He forces, even if grudgingly, the country to associate the term “morality” with political leadership. To my mind, these are priceless attributes in our toxic political environment.
Of course, his management of the current impasse in the wake of the Chief Justice’s recent rulings would be pivotal in him maintaining this stature. The longer he allows this situation to drag on, the more he would be perceived as just another power-grabber.
So, when I look at the potential candidates, I think he is the only one that will both galvanize the base while not turning off independents, including non-PNC Indian Guyanese, Amerindians and African Guyanese. Some of the others appeal to independents, but do not turn on the base. Some turn on the base, but turn off independents. Granger, I think is the only one that would be allowed the space to do both.
The second reason I support Granger is that it is tactically sound for the Coalition to show unity around the top of the ticket and to give the country a sense of continuity. To look for a new leader after less than one term would be suicidal. And as I hinted above, all the contenders, except one, have shown little capacity to lead a country such as Guyana.
In other words, while some in the coalition, including this commentator, may have some difficulties with his style of leadership and with some of the decisions he made, those are not enough to deny him a second term.
As regards the Prime Minister slot, I still believe that that position should go to one of the smaller parties. Clearly the Cummingsburg Accord would be amended or a new one would be worked out with the AFC. My prediction is that the AFC would and should be given the PM slot, even if its share of the parliamentary and cabinet seats is decreased. Since Mr. Granger is African Guyanese, I feel strongly that the PM slot should go to an Indian Guyanese. It is both commonsense and ethnically correct.
More of Dr. Hinds’ writings and commentaries can be found on his YouTube Channel Hinds’ Sight: Dr. David Hinds’ Guyana-Caribbean Politics and on his website www.guyanacaribbeanpolitics.news. Send comments to email@example.com