Two years after the May 11, 2015 general elections, the Alliance for Change (AFC) appears to be fighting for its survival in the coalition government. The AFC leaders are disgruntled that the People’s National Congress (PNC), the largest party in the coalition had disregarded the spirit of the Cummingsburg Accord, which birthed the coalition that ended 23 years of PPP reign.The Cummingsburg Accord is a historic document in the sense that it became the platform on which the coalition government came to power.
The Accord was supposed to serve as a guide to the coalition partners in government. It has a minimum shelf life of three years and a maximum of five years, which means that it could expire in 2018 at the earliest or in 2020 at the latest. But after two years in office, the leaders of the AFC have called for an appraisal of the Accord and have appointed a committee to review it.The mandate of the committee is to highlight areas in the Accord that may require strengthening and updating, establish a proper resolution mechanism for inter-party consultation and to settle disputes and to determine the composition of state boards and local government authorities.
Even though the AFC leaders asserted that the Coalition government has been strong and cohesive and that mutual respect exists between APNU and the AFC, many of its members believed that the AFC has been sidelined by the PNC on important issues. However, this has always been the experience of smaller parties in a coalition government. At the signing of the Accord, it was agreed that in the construct of a government, the presidency would go to APNU and the position of Prime Minister to the AFCwith full responsibilities corresponding to their respective positions. It did not happen.
Shortly after the coalition government entered office in May 2015, there were immediate concerns that Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo was not given the responsibilities as outlined in the Accord. Though he occupied the number two position in the government after President Granger, he had far fewer portfolio responsibilities than the Minister of State, Joe Harmon, who had an assorted portfolio that kept expanding.The only two distinct positions accorded to the Prime Minister is the leader of Parliament and the first in line to replace the President during his absence.
The AFC was not pleased, and to make matters worse, it was not being consulted on some of the key issues. In 2017, it requested a revision of the Cummingsburg Accord, which was reinforced after public criticisms from its supporters at home and in the New York and Toronto diaspora over its support for the unilateral appointment of the Chairman of Guyana Election Commission. Internal bickering also erupted among its executive members after internal e-mails made public by this newspaper revealed that party leaders Raphael Trotman and Khemraj Ramjattan had advised President Granger that he would be within his constitutional right to ignore the list of names submitted by the leader of the opposition and make a unilateral appointment.
Its New York Chapter berated the leaders of the AFC for such silly decision and members of its Toronto Chapter rescinded their support for the AFC. The AFC leadership was also scolded for its failure to push for Constitutional reform, which was a major plank in the APNU+AFC manifesto.
The AFC is caught between a rock and a hard place, because with just over two years before the next general elections in 2020, it is hardly likely that APNU will agree to renegotiate the Accord or assign more state power to the AFC.
This is especially true since the AFC announced that it might contest the Local Government Elections (LGE) later this year as a separate party. However, following the conclusion of its executive meeting last Saturday, it is still not clear whether or not the AFC will contest the LGE as a separate party or collate with APNU. Time will tell if the AFC has backpedalled.
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