The last five months have witnessed widespread calls for the APNU+AFC government to respect electoral democracy. The period has also seen calls – from the usual suspects – for a more inclusive democratic process. This latter demand for shared governance is primarily a tactic to deflect attention from blatant rigging of the March 2nd elections, taking advantage of our racially-polarized society in a shameless attempt to convert an electoral crisis into an ethnic conflict.
In some ways, those making a pitch for a more inclusive democracy, are right – elections in this country have proved themselves winner-take-all- affairs, even under the incumbent multiracial coalition. The competition for state power creates winners and losers. Those who win gain control of government, and those who lose must settle for the relative exile of the opposition benches.
Framed in this manner, the winner-take-all argument places the cart before the horse. There can be no inclusive government unless there is a winner and a loser. How else does one identify the principal parties to power sharing? There can be no shared governance unless there is a legitimate government and a legitimate opposition. The very notion of shared governance involves a relationship between contesting parties.
According to the President of the Caribbean Court of Justice, Justice Adrian Saunders, free and fair elections are the lifeblood of democracy. Free and fair elections are also the foundation of sovereignty since it is through free and fair elections that the people decide who should rule them and in so doing, give their consent to the exercise of sovereignty.
The people of Guyana voted in elections on 2nd March. They were asked to choose a government and they did so. They were not being asked to participate in a referendum for power sharing. To suggest therefore that the democratic will of the people be discarded in favor of shared governance is oxymoronic to democracy and national sovereignty.
Unfortunately, the APNU+AFC is attempting to sustain itself in office through fraud and deceit. How can this assault on democratic elections become the foundation for the establishment of political inclusion? Those who disrespect the people’s votes are not likely to respect their right to political inclusion, Free and fair elections are a prerequisite for democratic governance. Citizens decide on who will rule them by voting. They also can use their ballot to remove those with whom they have lost favor. This right to elect and remove governments is the root of democratic governance. Take away the ballot and democracy dies. Political inclusion is the tonic which sustains democracy. It facilitates democratic participation by allowing for citizens a role in government but it cannot displace democratic elections. Political inclusion, without democratic elections, becomes nothing more than elite rule.
The ethnic security dilemma, in which one grouping could be permanently locked out of power, had in the past created a basis for power sharing. But that basis no longer exists since the results of the 2015 elections have shown that it is possible for any of the two large political groupings to win power through free and fair elections. None of the two large ethnic groups in Guyana can lay claim anymore to being permanently locked out of power. Each can gain power through democratic elections.
The APNU+AFC, however, wishes to close the door to democratic change. It is doing so even as it pretends to be open to inclusive governance. The Coalition, over the past five months, has made no attempt to dialogue with the opposition political parties. Now, isolated regionally and internationally, and facing the imminent declaration of the elections’ results which would boot it from power, it is calling for dialogue.
The APNU+AFC wants to use the fig leaf of dialogue to remain in office. The APNU+AFC is so craven and obsessed with power that it will do anything and resort to any form of trickery to retain political office. The opposition parties have rejected this call and rightly so. The opposition parties are standing firm. They are insisting on respect for the results of the elections as a precondition for dialogue.
The demand for dialogue will enjoy greater support and legitimacy if it is part of a democratic environment in which election results are respected. This newspaper will support political dialogue so long as the legitimate results of the elections are respected.
We therefore call for the results of the recount to be declared and for there to be a peaceful transition to a new government. No electoral democracy, no political inclusion. .The theatre of political inclusion, as is presently being constructed and advocated for, can never be a substitute for democratic elections. To quote the man who gave his life for this fundamental concept, “People’s power, no dictator!”
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