My friend Freddie Kissoon in one of his recent columns bemoaned the inability of the new parties to come together to fight the coming elections as a coalition. In other words, Freddie wanted these parties to replicate what the APNU+AFC parties have done. Ever since Freddie publicly indicated he would vote for one of these parties, he has been calling for them to join forces to maximize their chances of getting a seat or two, with the objective of bringing about a minority government after the election.
Freddie and I agree on a lot of the critique of APNU+AFC, but we differ on whether they should be returned to government.
I disagree with Freddie’s embrace of the new parties as the answer to the PPP and PNC monopoly of Guyana’s politics on two counts.
First, I don’t believe that the electorate is in the mood to experiment with a new party, especially since none of them has put forward a clear and compelling alternative agenda to those of the two large formations. Second, I am not convinced that a minority government is the answer to our contentious politics.
As Henry Jeffrey pointed out in his most recent column, the absence of a parliamentary majority party does not prevent the party with the presidency from governing.
We saw what happened after the 2011 hung parliament, whereby the PPP, despite losing the parliamentary majority, was still able to govern for four years. So, a repeat of the 2011 scenario would mean either of two things. Either the Third Party keeps the minority government in power, or it joins with the large opposition party to bring down the government, as the AFC eventually did to the minority PPP government.
So, I repeat, a minority government after the next election does not open the door to the transformation of the political process which Freddie desires.
But here is another problem with Freddie’s criticism of the new parties’ inability to form a pre-election pact. Freddie has spent a lot of time this past year lambasting the AFC and the WPA, some of it justified, but a lot of it unjustified. Here the columnist is bashing Third Parties while at the same time asking people to vote for the Third Parties he favours.
Freddie has also been merciless in his criticism of the Coalition, some of it justified and some unjustified. But again, he bashes a coalition, but wants other parties to form a coalition of his liking.
Why is Freddie then surprised that the new parties are reluctant to form a coalition? They have already boxed themselves in a corner by saying they would not join with either of the two big formations. Without realizing it, they have given “joining” a bad name and, so, could not even bring themselves to form a joint slate.
The joining of votes after the election does not have the same effect as a pre-election pact. Ironically, by his relentless criticisms, Freddie has also helped to reinforce the notion that coalitions are not a qualitatively superior formation.
Unlike Freddie, I believe at this historical juncture, Third Parties are better positioned to potentially advance a transformative agenda in coalition with the big parties if the latter embrace a movement away from one-party governance. This approach is not without its big challenges, but I firmly believe it is more effective than not engaging them.
At the moment, the PNC has shown more willingness in theory if not always in practice to move away from winner-takes-all governance. That is a small change, but it has big potential.
In the absence of revolution, revolutionaries must learn how to take advantage of what is possible. A small group of people are cursing WPA for being in coalition with the PNC. Incidentally, a lot of it comes from the PPP, a party that spent most of its life since the 1960s trying to form a Unity government with the PNC.
But serious political people must always confront what is before them and ask what, in the concrete circumstances, is possible. The mistake of the AFC and WPA was not in joining the PNC in government, but in their failure to balance commitment to government stability with commitment to transformative policies and practice. They erred on the side of government stability and solidarity, and in the process allowed the Coalition to govern in a routine manner.
So, like Freddie, I have had a lot of difficulties with the performance of APNU+AFC in government and with the leadership’s management of the coalition. But unlike Freddie, I do not think those mistakes disqualify them from a second term. Like Freddie, I have difficulties with the way the AFC and WPA behaved in the government and approached the PNC’s desire to treat the government as a one-party formation, but unlike Freddie, I do not believe that those parties are useless.
I believe Coalition politics is the route to the desired national solution and national government, and I believe the AFC and WPA are pivotal to pushing the Coalition in that direction.
I respect Freddie’s stance towards the Coalition, but his crusade against the AFC and WPA and his concomitant over-disrespect for them has not helped his drive to sell the new parties as the alternative.
The first term has shown that there is no magic in coalition politics–intra-coalition tensions are real. To the contrary, the achievement of government exacerbates those tensions. But confronting them in creative ways opens up possibilities for the larger politics of change.
It is for that reason that I think there is a clear choice before the electorate: Coalition Politics with possibilities for transformation or One-Party Politics that guarantees domination.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper)
More of Dr. Hinds’ writings and commentaries can be found on his YouTube Channel Hinds’ Sight: Dr. David Hinds’ Guyana-Caribbean Politics and on his website www.guyanacaribbeanpolitics.news. Send comments to [email protected]
Feb 27, 2020Country Coordinator Brian Joseph hails project a success; seeking to expand By Franklin Wilson The ten Primary Schools which formed part of the Concacaf Next Play Pilot Project were yesterday part of...
Editor’s Note, If your sent letter was not published and you felt its contents were valid and devoid of libel or personal attacks, please contact us by phone or email.
Feel free to send us your comments and/or criticisms.
Contact: 624-6456; 225-8452; 225-8458; 225-8463; 225-8465; 225-8473 or 225-8491.
Or by Email: [email protected] / [email protected]