It is widely accepted that opposition political parties form a critical component of any modern democracy. In fact, the basis on which any party can form an acceptable and legitimately-elected government is one which also produces an acceptable and legitimately-elected opposition to that government. The expectation that a governing party will implement policies in keeping with its own priorities and the platform on which it was elected, must therefore be tempered with the presumption of resistance from the political opposition.
As most Guyanese are now aware, this presents a dilemma for a government requiring the support of the opposition in order to implement its legislative agenda. It is up to that Government, if it wants to function effectively during its term in office, to engage its parliamentary adversaries in a way that advances its own agenda.
If it fails in this regard, then it is free to return to the electorate to seek greater authority. The People’s Progressive Party-Civic (PPP-C) Government, not to be inconvenienced by the norms and conventions of a modern democracy, has chosen to ignore the majority opposition in order to continue to run things in its own way. In doing so, it has violated several sections of our constitution and has resorted to demonizing the opposition, and in some cases, even its constituents.
It is quite clear that the PPP-C Government does not believe that Guyanese people deserve to enjoy real democracy, and that what they have been offering for the last two decades is a light version of the concept, without all the calories of the real deal.
The Alliance For Change (AFC) has always held that the key to Guyana’s development lies in significantly improving the way the country is governed. The AFC sees itself as a part of the entire apparatus of governance in Guyana today, and is mindful of its various roles and responsibilities as an opposition political party within that apparatus. Some of these follow.
The AFC maintains that any opposition party worth its salt ought to present itself to the electorate as a viable alternative to the government of the day. Fundamental to the concept of a constitutional democracy is the ability of the people to change governments. This, however, relies on the existence of an electable alternative to the incumbent.
One may argue that in Guyana’s case it relies on the existence of an electable alternative to the two major political parties who have nurtured ethnic insecurity as the basis for mass support, giving most Guyanese very little in the way of real options. Either way, the AFC believes it has a responsibility to the people of Guyana to ensure that it remains a politically viable organization.
The AFC understands that the checking of executive power by another elected branch of government, such as a legislative assembly, is a healthy feature of the democratic system of governance. It is largely the presence of the political opposition within such assemblies that makes this such an effective device, and in the case of Guyana’s National Assembly, this device is made more effective by the slim majority held by the opposition. However, the power to check the nation’s executive must not be wielded in a way that is detrimental to the people of the nation, and the AFC is aware that it now faces the additional responsibility of ensuring that this does not happen.
The party will continue to be the determining factor wherever there is division between the PPP-C and APNU on any matter before the National Assembly, and its decisions will therefore attract greater public scrutiny than before.
The AFC has always taken positions based on deliberations and consultations involving a broad cross-section of views and careful examination of available information, and is convinced that this process provides a sound basis for decisions on matters of national importance. It is not surprising, therefore, that the party has become the focus of criticism from those with inflexible or predetermined positions that the AFC could not support.
The ability to compromise, far from being a weakness, is an important aspect of making progress in the face of gridlock, and the AFC sees this as part of its role as an opposition party. It is unacceptable for the people’s business to be parked indefinitely while those tasked with collectively advancing it refuse to negotiate solutions.
Negotiation is an essential part of the political tool kit which all parties have a responsibility to employ in the process of reaching acceptable compromises between opposing positions. At this point it is worth observing that the failure of the President to assent to the local government bills tabled by his party, and approved unanimously in the National Assembly after negotiated amendments, is hardly an indictment of the process. The credibility of his government is what is at stake, and the ball is now in his court, despite the contrived ping-pong game with his Attorney General.
Opposition parties are saddled with the additional role of championing the cause of various disaffected groups and individuals who feel they have nowhere else to turn to have their matters addressed. The AFC fulfils this role increasingly, with more and more persons calling upon the party to represent them in matters of concern.
The role of the political opposition in national development is one which deserves emphasizing. It should never be overlooked that national development is a long-term process that transcends governments and individual leaders. It is unacceptable for an elected government to embark on a series of long-term projects without prior consultations with the political opposition.
The opposition is an important stakeholder in a country’s development and must have an input in its development plans. Long-term projects need to be prioritized and sequenced within an agreed-upon development strategy, so that there is a clear understanding all around of how and where they fit into the grand scheme of things.
A series of grand schemes will not do the trick. The AFC has repeatedly stated its readiness to participate in any serious attempt at crafting a development strategy for Guyana. Guyana’s underdevelopment has everything to do with the failure of successive governments to allow opposition parties and other stakeholders to play a meaningful role in determining the country’s future.
In addition to playing a critical role in national politics, opposition parties also make valuable contributions at the community level by winning seats on local government councils and by being directly and specifically accountable to the communities served by those councils.
The complete denial of democracy at this level, for over fifteen years, has shut out the eight-year-old AFC from participating in Neighbourhood Democratic Councils and Municipal Councils across the country. This has severely limited the party’s ability to play a role in community development and management. The AFC is, nevertheless, preparing itself to participate in Local Government Elections so as to develop stronger ties with the people of Guyana at a level of maximum impact.
Any discussion on the AFC’s roles and responsibilities as an opposition political party cannot conclude without references to its rights in the same capacity. Foremost among these is the right of access to certain state resources currently monopolized by the governing party. The AFC continues to insist on access to the State media in order to share its views and positions with the people of Guyana, particularly on matters in which the government’s positions have been exclusively carried by those media. At some point the party will be forced to intensify its efforts to correct this disgusting disregard for the majority of the Guyanese public by a government that is clearly undemocratic. At that point the role of the political opposition in extra-parliamentary action against specific abuses by the government may become a relevant addition to this article.
Sep 25, 2021Kaieteur News – Young Warriors are the 2021 Canada Premier Softball Cricket League (CPSCL) Grand champions after clinching an enthralling six-wicket win over Toronto Knight Riders on Saturday....
Sep 25, 2021
Sep 25, 2021
Sep 25, 2021
Sep 25, 2021
Sep 25, 2021
Kaieteur News – My interest is in the various disciplines that make up knowledge centered on history. From 14 years... more
By Sir Ronald Sanders The public health and economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has rightly focused the attention and... more
Freedom of speech is our core value at Kaieteur News. If the letter/e-mail you sent was not published, and you believe that its contents were not libellous, let us know, please contact us by phone or email.
Feel free to send us your comments and/or criticisms.
Contact: 624-6456; 225-8452; 225-8458; 225-8463; 225-8465; 225-8473 or 225-8491.
Or by Email: [email protected] / [email protected]