Under our constitution, you cannot have post-election coalition. I haven’t done the research but I suspect no other constitution denies this configuration. When the AFC and APNU became a united electoral slate under the document named the Cummingsburg Accord, the shape of power agreed on if victory was acquired was that the Prime Minister would chair the Cabinet.
It never took place because the constitution empowers the president to be head of the Cabinet. In recent months, Mr. Granger has made two important adumbrations which virtually complicate the shape of pre-election coalition.
First in the outlay of the core principles in the prelude to the revamping of the covenant between AFC and APNU, he said that the Accord must accord with the constitution.
This means that whatever parameters, configurations, permutations are arrived at they must be in sync with the constitution.
Second, in expressing his answer to the PM slot for Ramjattan from reporters’ questions, he stated that the constitution stipulates that the PM is selected by the president.
Simply put, Granger is telling extant and potential election partners that if there is a pre-election unity team, the sharing of power must adhere to constitutional stipulations.
In such a situation, then, pre-election unity has to be premised on two situations that are fundamentally political in substance and not legal physiology. First, there must be a comprehensive document signed and delivered which extracts a moral guarantee from the partners.
Such a paper was the Cumminsburg Accord. One of its highlights was that it restricted APNU leadership from interfering with AFC’s ministerial choices.
The second area is vital if Shuman is to join APNU and if the WPA is to continue in APNU, there must be a water-tight guarantee from the president (not necessarily Granger but whoever the president is) that political guarantees will have to be of sensitive and utmost considerations in the light of constitutional power.
Some clarification is in order. The president must agree to relax some of his constitutional authority to ensure that the post-election coalition remains intact.
Here is an example to demonstrate what I mean. Suppose Shuman says he wants the Finance Ministry. APNU agrees. APNU-AFC wins the 2020 poll. Shuman then as minister earmarks Wakenaam Island to have a GRA office.
The president disagrees and used his constitutional authority to scuttle the expenditure. The president has legal, Cabinet and constitutional power to do so.
But he can constrain himself and let the GRA office be built out of political compromise rather than the invocation of constitutional authority. This is what I mean above by political guarantees having to be sensitive.
The pre-election coalition between the APNU, AFC, Shuman’s party and the WPA can only work if there is a certain amount of acceptance that though there will be no violation of constitutional articles, constitutional invocations don’t necessarily have to come into play.
Here is another example. The constitution says the President must select his prime minister. But political finesse can overcome that without taking away the constitutional right of the president to make that decision. The AFC or Shuman or the WPA can request John Jones to be prime minister.
The president politically (it is important to emphasise the adverb) can accept the nomination and then say that as president he has picked John Jones. If he takes John Jones willingly and then announces that John Jones is his choice, how does that violate the constitution? What happens in such a scenario is that political pragmatism prevails and the constitution is not violated.
The trouble with Mr. Granger’s framework in my opinion is that he is not willing to put political arrangements in a coalition covenant above the constitution because he feels such arrangements must accord with the constitution. But astute politics can get around that because at the end of the day for a coalition to work, the top of the hierarchy (president or prime minister) has to concede some of his authority using political blueprints that do not have to conflict with the constitution.
When I met David Hinds before he left a month ago, I told him if there is a crescendo of support for the WPA as he has testified in his writings then there is only one way he can help WPA’s constituencies – by drafting a legal rendezvous between the WPA and APNU stipulating what policies the WPA would like implemented.
The AFC went in that direction and got many of the things it wanted though the PNC was able to circumvent the AFC’s latitude by resorting to the president’s constitutional authority.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper)
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