IS THE PNCR WILLING TO CEDE THE LEADERSHIP OF APNU?
For a party that has not won a free and fair election in over twenty years, and which on its own may never win such an election, it is surprising that the PNCR is yet to recognize the wisdom of having someone other than its leader head A Partnership for National Unity (APNU).
The PNCR is the dominant partner in APNU. Without the PNCR, APNU is a mere shell comprising of small marginal parties and groupings with insignificant electoral support. The PNCR is, therefore, the lifeline to APNU.
If the PNCR hopes to have any chances of being part of a government, it would need to invest in building APNU into a more broad-based alliance of parties, with the PNCR reducing the amount of influence that it wields within the grouping.
One of the main failings of APNU during the last election was its inability to have civil society groupings and organizations join the partnership. But the leadership of APNU cannot really be totally faulted for this, since it is in the nature of Guyana politics for such groupings to not be cautious in becoming embroiled in political movements contesting political office.
Such groupings would need encouragement to come on board, and this can be facilitated by no one party or grouping having a dominant influence within the partnership. In this way, a more balanced alliance would emerge.
Given the political realities of Guyana, alliance politics is expected to be a permanent feature of the politics of the PNCR. This is all the more reason for there to be one person to be its leader and another to head APNU.
If the leader of the PNCR is the leader of APNU, it can turn-off groupings that may be interested in being part of the partnership, because they may feel they are going to be marginalized by the overwhelming electoral, financial and membership superiority enjoyed by the PNCR. It therefore makes practical sense for there to be one leader of the PNCR and another for APNU.
Based on the report of the nominations in the media, it does seem as if the contest for the leader of the PNCR is a two-person race. But it need not be, because one of them can agree to take over the leadership of the party, while the other devotes his energies towards heading the partnership.
Having the same person heading both outfits can lead to problems since that person may feel obligated more towards promoting and imposing the positions of the PNCR within the partnership, as opposed to having to moderate such positions within the larger partnership of APNU.
There is, however, another option. APNU is not a one-party or a one-man show. One of the persons who has contributed in no small measure to the public appeal of APNU was its Prime Ministerial candidate. Perhaps if the present leader of APNU becomes the Leader of the PNCR, then the Prime Ministerial candidate of APNU can be elevated to the position of Leader of APNU. This would obviously test the level of trust that the PNCR has in an APNU without one of its own as leader, but it is a test that the PNCR needs if it is to convince Guyanese that in a national unity government it will not hog political power.
Come this month when the PNCR holds its congress, this is one of the issues that will no doubt be considered. The election of a Leader of the PNCR is however not just going to be the only highpoint. This congress will also have to chart the way forward and perhaps reshape the PNCR’s position on shared governance.
It does seem at present as if the PNCR is in a combative mood, in so far as the government is concerned. This may have to do with the fact that APNU, of which the PNCR is a central member, is pouring most of its energies into parliamentary politics and a unified position with the AFC, and less in trying to find middle ground by engaging the government directly.
The PNCR’s position has of recent been that even if it had won the elections, it would have had to incorporate the PPP into any national unity government. The fallout from the Budget and the PPP’s own historical suspicions and insecurities over national unity governments with the PNCR may have, for the time being, placed such a government way on the backburner.
But if the PNCR remains serious about national unity, it has to use this opportunity to demonstrate that middle ground can be found between the government and itself, because unless the PNCR can show this, then it will have very little chance of convincing its delegates that a national unity government involving the PPP is the way forward.