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Nov 27, 2017 News
By Abena Rockcliffe-Campbell
The Alliance For Change (AFC) can end up being the political party to, in Guyanese parlance, ‘lose corn and husk.’ This would be the case if the party does not begin to make more demands in government at the policy making level and does not insist in being included in the handling of matters such as the appointment of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) Chairman.
Political Analyst, Dr. David Hinds made this observation yesterday during an interview with this newspaper. The interview came on the heels of the publication of an analytical piece written by Dr. Hinds.
The columnist noted that the AFC is losing popularity among the voters who placed trust in that party as a force to deter corruption and dictatorship in a government where the PNCR is the main player.
In his article, Dr. Hinds noted that managing coalitions is always a delicate undertaking. He said that the major partner invariably tries to manage the Government in its own image, while the minor partner or partners try to prevent this. If they succeed in doing so, the minor parties accumulate influence for themselves within the Government.
“If they fail, they either leave the coalition, or they stay and function as toothless poodles with little say in the overall direction of the Government.” Dr. Hinds said that that is the big challenge for the two substantive junior partners in the present coalition government– Working People’s Alliance (WPA) and AFC.
Dr. Hinds said that the PNC monopolizes power within the Government.
He said, however, that the PNC must be mindful of the reality of the Cummingsburg Accord which guarantees the AFC 40 per cent of the Cabinet and substantial parliamentary representation. “The AFC has a clear and present veto—it could bring down the Government anytime it chooses to,” noted Dr. Hinds. In speaking to this newspaper, Dr. Hinds explained that all it takes is one AFC Member of Parliament to join with the PPP to pass a vote of no confidence against the government.
Dr. Hinds noted that while the Cummingsburg Accord is not a document with legal standing, if the President or the APNU violates it, the AFC by withdrawing their support which would have legal and constitutional consequences—the fall of the government.
Dr. Hinds said that while Cabinet is the theoretical centre of power, under Guyana’s system, the presidency is a separate and more powerful centre of power. And, of course, the PNC controls the presidency whose power flows directly from the Constitution. “The AFC found out this brutal truth after the fact as they negotiated a disproportionate chunk of Cabinet posts and parliamentary seats. These did not amount to substantive power. The AFC’s only real power is the power to topple the Government, while the PNC has a majority in the Cabinet and the National Assembly in addition to the all-powerful presidency.”
In his article, Dr. Hinds chronicled the history of the AFC that ended up with it being a party mostly supported by Indians. (Entire article can be read at http://guyanacaribbeanpolitics.com/?p=8896).
He opined that once in office, the AFC soon forgot about the political dynamics that brought them into Government. “They never sought to balance the exercise of ministerial office with holding together the tenuous dynamics within the party…they became power-drunk. Here were great patriots who had put up their hands to be counted, but apart from Nagamootoo and to some extent Ramjattan, they had no history of struggle and sacrifice—they came to politics from the top.”
“In the end, they ignored their reason for being. They had no conversations with that fragile Indian constituency that brought them to office — they did not try to broaden it. They spent more time in Georgetown than on the Corentyne, West Berbice and Essequibo. The party functioned through the ministries. The never sought to serve as a check on the PNC. Perhaps they couldn’t, since they had played all their cards in the negotiations of the Cummingsburg Accord.”
Dr. Hinds said that the AFC leadership, from all indications, decided that their only relevance lies in Government. Yet, there is not a single government policy that bears the imprint of the AFC.
OUT OF CARDS
Dr. Hinds said that the AFC is probably now beginning to see its mistakes. “The party has now called for the renegotiation of the Cummingsburg Accord. But what is their bargaining chip?”
Dr. Hinds noted that the Indian supporters are dissatisfied with the stance of the party and Nigel Hughes, the party’s link to African Guyanese, has left the executive and is no longer one of the prominent faces of the party. By the time it came for the selection of the GECOM chair, they had nothing to bargain with.”
Dr. Hinds said that while it is now known that the AFC was not fully in support with the President’s unilateral appointment of the GECOM chair, the party simply cannot demand any policy initiatives. “That was not part of the Accord which was limited mainly to seat allocation in the Cabinet and the National Assembly.”
LOSE CORN AND HUSK
Dr. Hinds is of the opinion that the AFC may end up losing the majority of its supporters and may still have to endure being a toothless poodle in a government. The political analyst said that the AFC’s credibility with its mainly Indian Guyanese constituency is severely compromised because that constituency is very wary of the PNC and only signed on to the coalition because of the AFC’s promise to keep the PNC in check.
“If the AFC is to regain any credibility, it would have to take a more aggressive stance against unilateral and potentially unpopular actions and policies by the APNU-PNC partner. But it may be too late for that, since the AFC has already co-owned much if not all of the government’s agenda. To bail out now would be most awkward,” said Dr. Hinds.
He said that the most the AFC can do is to make more policy demands that would potentially favour Indian Guyanese. “And if they do that, they would have to admit that they are an Indian Party.”
What about WPA?
Dr. Hinds is an executive member of the WPA. He did not say much about the party but said enough for one to deduce that the WPA is not in a much better off position than the AFC.
Dr. Hinds said, “The PNC has neutralized the potential WPA threat by sidelining the APNU, in which the WPA is the second largest partner. While the WPA has a big voice within the APNU, it has a very tiny voice within the Government. But the APNU has little to no say in the Government and despite the WPA’s belated pleadings that arrangement is not likely to change much, if any at all. I am not optimistic that the PNC would cede much political space to the WPA and the WPA has not yet worked out the delicate balance of over sighting Government while being a very junior partner in the Government.”
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