Guyana is said to have three main political forces: the ruling People’s Progressive Party (PPP) and the opposition People’s National Congress (PNC). The third force is the Alliance for Change (AFC), which surprised everyone with its performance in the 2006 elections
The masterminds behind the AFC were hoping that the party would have been a central force, bridging the gap between the PPP and the PNC and that it could have held the balance of power in the new parliament. This would have forced the ruling party to make political compromise, something that some felt was necessary if Guyana was to enjoy sustained political stability.
The West, in fact, believes that Guyana’s problems revolve around the intractable nature of our political culture, with the two major parties being unwilling to enter into political compromises.
The Carter Centre had made it clear after the 2001 elections that there was a need for greater political cooperation and for the opposition to have a greater say in certain appointments. The Carter Centre quite diplomatically explained that it was not convinced that the PPP was willing to make the necessary concessions.
The strategy, therefore, by the West, has been to force this political accommodation. They are not keen on doing this through power sharing, because their philosophy is that there must be political competition such as what exists in liberal democracies. Thus, committed to multi-party elections, the West is of the opinion that the best way to force cooperation would be like what is happening now in the US Congress, where the Republicans are being put in a situation where they have to negotiate a deal.
In the case of Guyana, we have a different political system, and as such, the West knows that what is needed is to deny the ruling party a majority, so that in order to pass bills and laws it would be forced to make compromises.
This is where the AFC comes in. The AFC can deny the ruling party a majority and thus hold the balance of power. With this balance of power, the ruling party would be forced to negotiate with the AFC and consequently there will have to be compromise.
The AFC did remarkably well in 2006, but it did not achieve the goal of holding the balance of power. The AFC must be recognized for what it is and what it will always be. It is a middle class party, and it has filled the void left by the WPA, which was also a party of the middle class around whom the working class rallied. Essentially, the WPA’s leaders and core has always been middle class.
The WPA, however, has long lost that ground. And it will never regain it once the AFC is around.And this is why there is room for a fourth force that can mobilise the working classes that were traditionally aligned to both the PPP and the PNC.
The middle classes have found refuge in the AFC and are not going to go back to the WPA. The WPA for all intents and purposes is no longer a force in local politics. Without the middle class, it has no constituency.
The middle class is, however, growing in Guyana, and growing rapidly. The PPP is attempting to bring large sections of this middle class under its wing. And it is not doing badly. The PNC is hoping that through alliance politics, the middle class will regroup under its partnership called APNU. But that is unlikely to happen. The AFC will hold the middle class.
But it still may not be able to deny the PPP a majority. The only way that the PPP can be denied a majority is if a fourth force comes along – a force that is willing to gain enough support to move beyond the middle classes and mobilise the masses and deny both the PPP and APNU the majority that they seek.
There is thus room for a fourth force. The big question is who will lead it?
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