The decision of the Alliance For Change (AFC) to contest the Local Government Elections (LGE) alone leaves it in an exposed position. It must now prove whether its electoral support is intact, or if it has vanished.
This view was recently expressed by Executive Member of the Working People’s Alliance (WPA), Dr. David Hinds.
In a missive to the media, the political commentator said he is not the least bit surprised with the AFC’s decision. He opined that the only other choice it had was to not contest at all. If it had chosen to do that, then Dr. Hinds said it would have been an admission of defeat.
In effect, Dr. Hinds said that the AFC’s coalition partner, A Partnership for National Unity (APNU), got what it wanted—it forced the AFC to go out and prove its electoral worth in circumstances that are not favourable to the latter.
The columnist said that the not so-veiled message to the AFC was clear—“Contest on your own or contest with us on APNU terms.”
He commented, “I think it all came down to leverage—the AFC did not have any bargaining power. Unlike in 2015, when it was able to use its performance at the 2011 election to strike a hard bargain in the Cummingsburg Accord, this time around, it did not have that asset. The votes at the 2015 election were combined, so it couldn’t accurately pinpoint its share.”
Dr. Hinds continued, “Further, if it is true that the AFC wanted 40 percent of the seat allocation that was not the smartest demand to make, especially since they badly wanted to go into the election as a Coalition. It gave APNU the chance to say ‘we tried to accommodate you but your demands were unreasonable.’ Perhaps a 20 percent request would have swayed APNU.”
He continued, “But a 40 percent demand was dead on arrival, simply because the AFC could not demonstrate that it has that amount of electoral support, particularly in the Indian Guyanese community. Had the AFC from 2015 onwards cultivated and consolidated its Indian Guyanese support base, it would have been in a stronger position to make the demands it sought.”
The University Professor added that the decision to go alone leaves the AFC in an exposed position, since this is the first time since 2011 that the AFC would be facing the electorate on its own. Further to this, Dr. Hinds said that the PPP would make it extremely difficult for the AFC to even campaign in the Indian Guyanese communities. He believes that this would leave the party with having to compete with APNU for African Guyanese votes. Dr. Hinds said that the optics of the latter scenario will be interesting to watch—two coalition partners fighting each other for votes.
In the final analysis, Dr. Hinds said the LGE will tell the nation two things about the AFC. He said first, it will tell the citizenry whether the party is still a significant electoral force. Second, how well the AFC does will tell Guyanese what bargaining power the AFC will have when the Cummingsburg Accord comes up for renewal before the next election.
Dr Hinds said, “I think the voter turnout among those who voted for the Coalition in 2015 will be very low and this would hurt the AFC chances of doing well. Those who bother to vote will most likely vote for APNU, which has the machinery to bring out some voters. So, my sense is that the AFC would come out of this much weaker than it was in 2015. Nevertheless, as they say, in political behaviour, it is unpredictable. I may be proven wrong.”
Finally, for all the positive spin by the AFC and President Granger about the good health of the Coalition relative to the 2020 election, Dr. Hinds said the fact that they could not reach an understanding on the LGE suggests the opposite.
“Despite the positive rhetoric, the entrenched culture of party hegemony, particularly from the big partner continues to trump the letter and spirit of coalition-building. Coalition-building requires enlightened leadership, constant meaningful consultation, mutual respect among partners, democratic decision-making and the willingness of the big partner to concede ground in the interest of the collective. I think the Coalition has come up short in that regard.”
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