I don’t know what time today Guyanese will get the news about the settlement between the PNC and AFC for the contesting of the 2020 election. Yesterday was the deadline for the restructuring of the Cummingsburg Accord. Three things the PNC wanted. Three things the AFC demanded. At the time of writing, we don’t know who got what at whose expense.
For the PNC, it is unhappy with Ramjattan becoming the PM in a 2020 victory. The fear is based on circumstances that could see an early retirement of Granger and the refusal of Ramjattan to give up the presidency. The AFC has signed on to a legal covenant that will see Ramjattan not acceding to the throne. If Ramjattan is awarded the slot today, then it shows the trepidation the PNC has of losing the election without the AFC. But who says the AFC would go into 2020 on its own? Only the PNC believes that.
Secondly, the PNC wants its leader to be the head of the list. At the moment, a neutral person, Professor Harold Lutchman holds that position. This is a powerful constitutional role. The leader of the list writes the Speaker requesting the removal of a parliamentarian. It is doubtful the current neutral head would easily accede to a request by the PNC to remove an AFC parliamentarian.
Thirdly, the PNC wants a 72 versus 28 formula for distribution of Cabinet and parliamentary seats. For the AFC, it wants Ramjattan as PM, the continuation of the 60 versus 40 formula, and the continuation of a neutral head of the list.
Let us guess that the PNC agrees to Ramjattan. To have done so, then the PNC acknowledged that it needs the AFC in order to win and was afraid the AFC would walk away.
The PNC has lost all intellectual credibility if it thinks that the AFC would have walked away if it didn’t get the PM slot. Very few political analysts and political observers believe that the AFC would have contested 2020 on its own. If the AFC has its Achilles Heel, it is the fear of going into 2020 on its own. After its ignominious collapse in the 2018 local government poll, the AFC was never going into 2020 by itself. No one except the self-deceivers in the PNC and AFC believe the AFC is still an electoral force.
If the AFC agrees to Granger being leader of the list, it further reinforces the deeply held belief in untold numbers of Guyanese that the AFC has lost its raison d’être and is happy to receive perks from the PNC. For the AFC, the formidable position of leader of the list does not matter, since it will still have a share of power. The AFC of course knows such a concession will cost it votes, but that is of no interest, since there are places for its leadership in Parliament and Cabinet.
If the PNC accepts even a 70 versus 30 format, then it demonstrates the extensive and intensive paranoia in the PNC that it will lose in 2020 if it goes on its own. The negotiations had to be complex yet realistic. One suspects that the PNC said to the AFC that it cannot give it 40 percent because its electoral standing has diminished substantially since 2015.
One suspects also that the AFC asked for proof of this decline and inquired also why the PNC’s electoral base has not become thinner. So it came down to the point where, since there was no evidence to supply, the AFC insisted that its percentage not be reduced.
If the PNC personnel bought the argument of no proof then they are intellectually bankrupt. There were three forms of evidence the PNC could have argued with. One is, traditionally, the PNC always polls more than 125,000 votes except for the 2006 election when it got 114,000. The PNC could ask the AFC that if those numbers will be reduced in 2020 then logically the AFC’s take will also be diminished significantly, therefore, 60 versus 40 or 70 versus 30 cannot be demanded by the AFC.
Secondly, the PNC could have used the 2015 GECOM station by station results to prove that its supporters stayed with it while AFC was almost devastated, compared to 2011.
Finally, the PNC could have asserted its belief that a major party in government that cannot win even one NDC much less a municipality in local government elections held as recent as 11 months ago, does not deserve to have even 30 percent of centralized power.
I believe that today, the AFC will receive much more than it truly deserves.
(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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