The opposition has been talking the language of constitutional rule – follow the constitution as instructed by the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) on elections following the successful passage of a no confidence motion – without any results. That demand for early elections and to follow constitutional governance will not go anywhere. It is not enforceable unless some big powers like the US or Canada or UK or India or the UN or Commonwealth imposes a solution. No big power is willing to get involved in resolving Guyana’s intractable political problem.
The problem facing the country on holding an election is no longer a legal or constitutional issue. It has become a political issue that requires diplomacy (from third party involvement) and a practical political solution. May I suggest a solution of some form of “power sharing” in which elections are held soon and the parties that win seats form an “inclusive national unity government” with Cabinet and all other positions being doled out based on proportionality of votes (not necessarily seats) received. The Coalition seems to want to be certain it is in the next government to oversee the oil revenues. Therefore, the only solution is power sharing that guarantees all parties a role in government formation and management of the country (cabinet, boards, commissions, etc). There can be a de facto, if not de jure, agreement on how the positions will be allocated before the elections. In this way, the Coalition is guaranteed a role in governance even if it does not win a plurality or majority. The PPP or other parties will also be guaranteed a role in government.
As publicly stated, the incumbent coalition, for whatever reasons, is not willing to hold an election any time soon and not without an updated electoral list derived from house to house registration. As so many have commented, a credible election can be held soon with an updated list by making sure all eligible voters (18 and over) are on it and voting is free and fair. But the incumbent is not budging on the issue because it fears the current electoral list may result in its defeat or gives an unfair advantage to the opposition.
There is no justifiable reason why the coalition should fear defeat because its political leader remains very popular in the PNC base. President Granger is far more popular in his base than other politicians in their traditional base. The PPP base is very divided. What unites the base is that elections should be held soon. But it does not mean the base will fully support the PPP.
So a political solution is needed to offer guarantees to the incumbent (and other parties) in the event of a defeat. Power sharing is the answer.
The political stakes are very high in the coming elections. The incumbent, for whatever reasons, fears defeat and out of power to manage the impending huge oil wealth. There has got to be a compromise to make the incumbent and all other political parties (PPP, ANUG, LJP, Fed Up, among others) and stakeholders feel they will be a part of the government regardless of who wins a free and fair elections.
Unless this issue of “the victor will not take everything” is addressed and soon, there will not be elections this year. Power sharing is also a way to unite the fractured nation. The country has been the most polarised I have ever encountered in my near fifty years of political struggle. We must address this polarisation regardless of which party or groups of parties win the elections. And the Coalition (or PPP) could very well win a plurality repeating the problem experienced in 2011 to 2015.
No one has been offering a solution to what is essentially a political issue on holding elections required in the constitution. One can quote the constitution ad infinitum (as the CCJ ruled), it will not lead to elections soon. Except from ANUG, no other party has been proposing power sharing post elections as a solution to Guyana’s intransigent problem. It is a practical way to address Guyana’s political problem.
Some elder statesmen (and women) should come together and request to see the leader of the Coalition and the opposition and propose such an idea. The group of elder statesmen (women) can serve as mediators for a compromise solution that can lead to early elections and shared governance.
Dr. Vishnu Bisram
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