A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) was officially launched last Friday, after an initial announcement about a month ago. The entity, however, like an old Cecil B. DeMille’s production, has been years in the making.
One element in its genesis has been the growth of the “power sharing” philosophy in Guyanese politics and the other – not necessarily unrelated – has been the pursuit by the PNC of a new, less controversial, identity.
Our immediate pre- and post-independence political mobilisation resulted in a polity that was starkly polarised along ethnic lines. It gradually dawned on some commentators and analysts that the two-party majoritorian system bequeathed by the British might have created its own set of problems in a country where the two major groups approached each other in size. It was a problem faced by many other ex-colonies and several new models were proposed by political scientists. Our contradictions were masked for the longest while by the rigged elections of the PNC dictatorship.
After 1992, when the shoe was transferred to the other foot, so to speak, the debate on alternative models of governance was initiated in our country. After much theoretical discussion in our newspapers about a need for a more consensual form of politics in our ethnically plural society (not to mention riots and protests) the PNC announced in 2002 that it was in favour of “executive power sharing”. This was after substantial changes in the constitution, precipitated by the riots and protests had been implemented at its insistence.
The PNC – which had by then appended a “Reform” component a la PPP “Civic” – attempted to put its money where its mouth was by trying to coalesce with other groups during the 2006 elections. It ended up only with the “1 Guyana” grouping, which did not do its cause any favour by producing the acronym “PNC-R1G” for the 2006 elections.
More damaging was the last moment refusal of Mr Robert Corbin to step aside for a “more electable” candidate and the subsequent departure of many notable non-PNC individuals. The PNC’s loss was even more ignominious with the new kid on the bloc – AFC – poaching five seats from its disgusted constituents.
Mr Corbin’s acceptance of Ex-Brigadier David Granger as the PNC Presidential candidate earlier this year, while he remains as its leader, is widely interpreted as insisting on maintaining control of the party. Be as it may, Mr Corbin has always offered fervid support for his predecessor Hoyte’s “shared governance” model.
After months of talks with the Working People’s Alliance (WPA), the Guyana Action Party (GAP), the National Front Alliance (NFA) and the Guyana’s People Partnership, (GPP) have now launched APNU.
The problem is that while the rhetoric of the PNC about being willing to be part of a vehicle that demonstrates its seriousness about “power sharing” in the aftermath of national elections is solid, the lack of demonstrated mass support by its erstwhile partners raises concerns that APNU is simply a front to hide the PNC.
After all, following the heady days of 1979, the WPA has steadily and precipitously declined after the murder of Dr Walter Rodney in 1980. GAP only barely garnered a single seat in 2006 in coalition with ROAR – which has chosen to withdraw from politics.
The NFA and GPP are more agglomerations of individuals that political parties.
The possibility of APNU changing the political landscape depends on several factors, not least being its willingness to announce ahead of the elections its allocations of Ministries and responsibilities. The suspicions raised by the disequilibrium of size among the members of APNU will only be silenced if the PNC demonstrates that it is willing to actually share power with others.
The Prime Ministerial candidate of the grouping is yet to be announced – possibly by design, so as to engender interest in the electorate. However, if the choice is an “outsider” with credentials and is made earlier than later, it may better serve APNU.
All in all, it is our hope that APNU remains committed to its rhetoric and is a precursor of a more stable politics in our ravaged land.