WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD?
An unexpected event took place yesterday. A house went up in flames.
For the owners and occupants this was a major un-anticipated disaster. But for a country as a whole, this unexpected event would not be very consequential in overall economic terms as compared to that major fire that took out many businesses and properties such as the one that raved Pitt Street in New Amsterdam many years ago.
The total number of fires each year can be estimated and catered for but knowing the specific ones that will occur or whether one fire will impact greater than another cannot be predicted. Such is life. Events occur over which we have very little control.
The Berlin Wall came down 22 year ago. It was an earth-moving event which was not predicted by the political experts. It was unexpected and it was consequential.
Similarly, the Arab Spring came last year. It was a blessing to the western world but not one that they had predicted or planned. It just happened.
After five years of economic growth, after raking up the highest levels of national savings, after placing Guyana on a sound path to economic development, many within the People’s Progressive Party would have predicted an easy electoral victory in the November polls.
After all, they held a four-seat advantage over the combined opposition and given their strong economic performance, the best in the Caribbean, they must have felt that they could not lose, that what was really at stake was by how big a margin they would win. They even began to speak about securing 55-60 per cent of the total votes cast.
In the end, the unpredictable occurred. The PPP got a mere 48.5 per cent of the votes mainly because of a suspicious surge in voters in Region Four for APNU, a loss of critical support in Region Six and overconfidence which saw many PPP supporters staying at home.
Despite the overall voter turnout being only slightly higher than in 2006, in a small voting population even this marginal increase tilted in favour of the opposition votes and allowed the PPP to fall short of a majority.
Overall the PPP lost four seats, APNU gained four more than the PNCR gained in 2006 and the AFC secured two more than the five they were awarded in 2006.
For the combined opposition, what happened was historic. For the PPP it was and remains an aberration, something they feel can be easily corrected if they return to the polls.
This attitude towards the results of the elections is really what conditions the approaches both camps are taking towards the Parliament.
APNU and the AFC feel this is a historic turning point in the country’s history. The PPP sees it as simply the outcome of it having an off-day at the polls and therefore it is not on the same wavelength as APNU or the AFC when it comes to what needs to be done.
The PPP believes that it can go back to the polls and gain its majority. APNU and AFC supporters, as well as some PPP supporters, also feel that if elections were called today, the PPP would lose ground and would still not get a majority. This is an assessment denying what the PPP believes: that what happened on November 28, 2011 was a random thing.
Even if elections were to be held tomorrow, it is hard to see how either APNU or the AFC can win the Presidency even if the PPP suffers a further decline in votes.
If there is the same voters’ turnout, APNU would still find it difficult to secure the additional votes it needs to gain the most votes and secure the Presidency and a majority in the Parliament. And the AFC knows that it does not stand a ghost chance of winning the Presidency should elections be held tomorrow.
To this equation we can add the fact that given the exhaustion from the last elections, no party, not even the PPP, would be keen on going back to elections right away.
As such, it is in the interest of the Opposition to work with the government to ensure that the national Budget due in a few weeks time is passed because failure to pass this Budget places the country again in uncharted waters and would eventually force an election which none of the parties wish at this time.
There are of course some factors that must be taken into consideration. It is not likely that without David Granger or Rupert Roopnaraine, APNU will survive. These men are the lifelines of the partnership and both are already seniors. Their supporters may not be too sure of their appeal to the electorate five years from now.
As such, APNU supporters may feel that the best chance these two gentlemen have of gaining power has to be now because no one can predict what will happen come 2016 when both individuals would have added five more years to their present age.
So there may be some forces that may be pushing for APNU to go back to the polls, but a realistic outlook does not suggest that APNU can gain the additional votes necessary for the Presidency much less to hold a majority in Parliament.
It must also be mentioned that the PNCR is now asserting itself more within the partnership to the point of saying that there would be no APNU without the PNCR.
Within the PNCR also, there is likely to be an imminent leadership tussle. Even if Mr. Granger decides to contest for the leadership of the party, he is likely to be strongly challenged by Mr. Carl Greenidge who it should be recalled merely lost the nod of his party as its Presidential Candidate by a mere fifteen votes.
If Mr. Greenidge decides to run for the leadership of the PNCR, he will be a formidable contender and could even defeat Mr. Granger.
All of that is, of course, speculation since it is not known exactly what surprises or unexpected events await APNU, or for that matter the AFC, which right now is very cozy with the main opposition party.
As observers examine all the variables and try to predict what can happen, they must also take note of the unexpected which can occur and which can take all the previous predictions completely out of the equation.
Who knows, maybe the PPP may end up in the APNU camp. Stranger things have happened in a world of random occurrences. No one knows what the future holds.