Whatever else may have been achieved in Election 2011, Bharrat Jagdeo’s vacation of the office of President of Guyana has to be a positive development. When the defining words of a president during the campaign are “I is in cuss mode”, we know there is not much hope for an enduring, positive legacy. Guyanese on the whole are happy to see the back of Jagdeo.
But we would like to look towards the future. If, as is now apparent, one of the two main parties ekes out a victory in the sense that by securing a plurality, they have secured the Presidency and the formation of the government, they will have to secure the support of one or the other of the other two parties in parliament so that budgets and initiatives can receive the mandatory 50% approval. Failure to secure this majority would be tantamount to a vote of no confidence and elections would have to be held in three months.
From the very beginning of the PPP’s campaign, Jagdeo made not only his record, but his own personal presence, the centre of the PPP’s hopes. He boldly predicted that the PPP would increase its share of the vote which meant that he was predicting a PPP’s victory with some 60% of the electorate. Thus, a pyrrhic victory would be seen as a repudiation of both his record and his presence.
If we were to offer some gratuitous advice to a new PPP administration, we would recommend that they start with a new slate and to ensure that Jagdeo is kept away from even an advisory role. Jagdeo is not known for accepting that he erred and in fact the opposite is true. In the case of the tongue-lashing he meted out to industrialist Dr. Yesu Persaud, when legislation had to be enacted to correct his false assumptions, he has never even hinted much less accepted that he was in error. In fact he tends to get into his “cuss mode” to cover his faux pas.
We can imagine Jagdeo blaming everyone but himself for disappearance of the party’s once impregnable majority. But the facts are that Jagdeo miscalculated the very real concerns of the populace especially with the cancer of corruption –in the PPP’s traditional base. With its old overwhelming fixation on security issues diminished (even if temporarily) that base was willing to look at other concerns. The PPP’s refusal to at least acknowledge the salience of corruption, appeared to be the most salient issue in this campaign.
It would appear therefore that whichever government is formed, by whatever permutations and combinations, its prime imperative would be to accept immediately and announce that corruption is not a figment of demented imaginations. Simultaneously, the new government would have to announce a comprehensive programme that would address the debilitating disease. They would do well to begin with some of the most egregious examples of that were identified by this newspaper.
Because of the evident close elections, it is obvious that no party can claim to have received the “mandate” that is normally claimed on these occasions. The second piece of advice we would offer the next government, and in this case the opposition also, is to begin to work together for the national good. And this suggestion will redound to the benefit of all parties. Electorates are not enamoured of elections that will be held every three months. There are too much tensions engendered and generally they take out their frustrations on all participants.
We look at the results of this election as the opportunity for a new beginning for governance of our country. After all the storm and thunder of the past few years it is perhaps time that everybody takes a deep breath and consider that the purported “stalemate” in the legislature might be rather fortuitous. There has been much talk for more than a decade of a more consensual mode of governance. Whether trust between the parties is there or not, the workings of the political system has now placed bargaining on the table.
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