The AFC has become too cozy with its main coalition partner, APNU. It is operating more like a sidekick rather than a party which was able to extract 40% of Cabinet and parliamentary seats for bringing no more than 10% of the votes to the joint coalition.
The only reason the AFC gets away with being a sidekick is because it has no strategy to mobilize important sections of middle class support, none whatsoever. The PPP does not have any reach within the professional and intellectual class and therefore the AFC is not being pressured by loss of middle class support.
After the 2011 elections, which the AFC contested as a party and not as part of any coalition, the AFC, with great euphoria announced that it held the balance of power in the National Assembly.
How did it exercise that balance of power? It did at times take a position independent of APNU but for the main part it was not interested in standing as an independent force. It connived with the APNU to frustrate the PPP government and then tried to pass a no-confidence motion which would have forced elections within three months. The AFC did not generally operate as an independent party.
After pledging that it would never enter into an alliance with either the PPP or APNU, it went and did exactly that thereby discrediting itself as a third force in Guyana. It signed an agreement with the APNU that has been honored in the main in the breach and the AFC is now effectively a rubber stamp in the government.
This is the cause of the frustration within the AFC camp. There is only so much that the AFC supporters can stomach and this sidekick role that the AFC is playing is of real concern to its supporters.
The AFC has no power in the government. The most important aspect of the Cummingsburg Agreement which relate to the powers of the Prime Minister being given powers over all the Ministers has not been honored the way the supporters of the AFC expect it to be honoured.
The Cummingsburg Accord specifically stipulated that the Prime Minister would be drawn from the AFC and would be responsible for domestic affairs. This means, in practice, that all Ministers should report to the Prime Minister. This is not happening.
This provision was negotiated so that it could provide the comfort to non-APNU supporters that they would not have to fear an APNU government because the Prime Minister would have substantial powers.
The AFC was also to be given the Minister of Home Affairs position. It was given this position, again in order to assure supporters of the PPP that their security concerns would not be neglected under a coalition government. This has been honoured but the former as it relates to domestic affairs and the Prime Minister has not been honoured.
The AFC has been downgraded within the coalition. It should have seen this coming since the swearing in of the President. The Prime Minister should have been sworn in minutes after but instead there was the announcement that someone would be appointed Head of the Presidential Secretariat and that the Prime Minister would be sworn in after the members of parliament would have been sworn in.
This position was reversed later but by that time everyone knew where the power lay and it did not lie in the hands of the Prime Minister.
To make matters worse, the office of the Prime Minister has now been moved under the wing of the Presidency thereby further emasculating that office.
Yet, the AFC sits and accepts that. This is why the eye pass happened during the local government election when the 60-40 formula seems to have been dispensed with. The AFC waited until the elections were over to cry foul. It should have done so when the various candidates were being selected and it was obvious that the AFC was being shafted.
The AFC draws a great deal of support from the middle class. This class is hurting. The economy is hurting. Business has slowed but yet there are no answers to this crisis and the reason is because once gold does good the economy will grow. But while the grass is growing the middle class is being devastated.
The AFC cannot therefore continue in the same vein. It has asked for the reorganization of government, not the reorganization of the powers of one Minister. The diminution of the powers of a Minister will not make that Minister less powerful. It will just mean less work for him or her.
The AFC has to operate as an independent force with the government. It has twelve seats, it holds the balance of power in parliament and it should ensure that that balance of power in the government reflects that influence.
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