Guyana loses whatever happens at the Caribbean Court of Justice today. The people of Guyana have become so polarized about this court case that constitutional issues have become secondary to the concerns about the political implications of the judgment.
Guyana loses because its people are not interested in ensuring respect for the Constitution. Some are bent on ensuring that the government is not removed while others want to see the resignation of the government.
The no-confidence motion is a perfectly legitimate democratic mechanism for holding Governments accountable. But it has become in Guyana a highly divisive issue. It has revealed the deep divisions in the country, and the failure of the APNU+AFC to reduce these divisions.
No confidence motions are here to stay. Guyanese have to become accustomed to no confidence motions because the ethnic arithmetic is of such that any future government will either be a minority government or hold a very slender majority. The supporters of the APNU+AFC, since assuming office have behaved as if their government has a commanding majority and not a slender grip on parliament.
As such, the no confidence motion has left many of them in shock. Many of them supporters are traumatized. They are not thinking straight. They have found themselves in state of deep shock and distress because they were operating under an illusion that their government was strong and invincible. How could any government with one seat majority be stable and impregnable?
No government with less than a four-seat majority should believe that it is secure. Even Burnham, in 1964, took steps to have persons from the opposition cross the floor in order to ensure that his party had a comfortable majority.
As declassified documents have revealed, the 1964 government was never stable, not within the government nor within the National Assembly.
In the 2011 parliament, the PPP found itself as a minority government. The combined opposition had a one-seat majority and used it to frustrate the Donald Ramotar government. That entire parliamentary session was highly contentious.
Eventually the APNU and the AFC agreed to move a motion of no confidence against the Ramotar administration. He would have fallen had he not prorogued parliament.
If elections are called tomorrow or next year, the result is not likely to be much different from 2011 and 2015. Whoever holds the government will hold a slim majority. Voting remains primarily along ethnic lines and Guyana’s ethnic composition will always, in such circumstances, be an ethnic census.
The country is likely to witness musical chairs with the government. One-term governments are likely to become a feature of national politics. The APNU+AFC is likely, regardless of whether elections are held later this year or next month, to be replaced by a PPP government.
But since no ethnic group has majority at the moment, elections are likely to result in very close results, as was the case in the 2011 and 2015 elections. In fact the APNU+AFC barely got into office by narrowest of margins in any local election.
Since 2015 the PPP has rebounded. Whether you like Jagdeo or not, he has been smart in his political tactics. He has won back most of the support which the PPPC lost between 2011 and 2015.
While local government elections are not an effective predictor of what will happen in general elections, the commanding majority gained by the PPPC at both the 2016 and 2018 elections suggests that it will be impossible for that party to be defeated at the next general and regional elections.
But even so, the PPPC is not likely to win by any landslide and may struggle to gain a working majority in the National Assembly.
Election patterns in Guyana have been consistent. The result of the 1997 elections were almost similar to that of the 1992 elections and after constitutional change in 2001, the elections of that year and the following elections in 2006 more or less saw the ruling party and the combined opposition gain more or less the same percentage of votes.
In 2012 census demonstrated why the PPP fell slightly behind in 2011. Their ethnic base had shrunk just enough to cause the party to slip below the 50% mark, a pattern that was repeated in 2015. Only that time there was a coalition which gained 51% to the PPPC 49%. As such, a new government was formed.
Whatever the decision of the CCJ today, a new government is very much likely whenever elections are held in 2020. And in 2025, there is likely to be a minority government as the smaller parties become stronger and new parties emerge.
There is even a strong likelihood that the PPPC will lose in 2025 to a resurgent APNU as the smaller parties eat into the PPPC’s support base.
Guyanese therefore should grow accustomed to regular changes in government. One-term governments are here to stay. Get with it!
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