A CONSENSUS PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE


Frustration at the political gridlock which obstructs all progress now pervades our politics. It has resulted in well meaning persons raising the issue once again of a consensus presidential candidate for the Opposition. This proposal, always just below the political surface, has more resonance at this time than any other in view of the 2011 election results. In earlier times political supporters of the Opposition often raised the idea in the hope that if accepted, it may attract enough supporters from the PPP to give the Opposition an absolute majority. Now that the Opposition together have a majority, many feel that a consensus presidential candidate can now bring victory to the Opposition.

As is well known the Guyana Constitution does not permit two or more Parties which together obtain a majority of the votes at elections to select the head of government or form the government. The Party which obtains the plurality wins the Presidency and can form a minority government as is the case now.

The simple solution, of course, is for one of the Opposition leaders, most likely David Granger of the larger APNU bloc, to be the consensus presidential candidate of both Opposition parties. For a reason that is well known but need not detain us, the proponents of the consensus presidential candidate idea do not see Mr. Granger as attracting enough PPP supporters to lead to an Opposition majority.  They also argue that the AFC will be crushed if it aligns with the APNU. Hence the search for a suitable candidate from outside the ranks of the Opposition who has broad, across the board appeal.

It is probably unlikely that both Opposition parties can find a suitable consensus presidential candidate upon whom they can both agree. It has to be remembered that both leaders will have to relinquish their own positions and convince their supporters to support someone who most likely has not been an open supporter of either Party or may not even have been a politician and therefore did not pay any dues. Agreeing to a consensus presidential candidate is possible but not easy to accomplish. The idea is probably based on the frustratingly stubborn domination of the two major parties with entrenched ethnic support. For it to materialize the Opposition parties would have to have a high degree of certainty that it will bring victory. There is no poll or study to suggest this.

Much more than a consensus presidential candidate, it is believed that the electorate would welcome the historical promise of national unity made by the founders of our nation, the General Council of the original PPP. The PNC, being an offshoot of the PPP, means that the PPP today exists in two parts, the PPP and the PNC. It is no longer feasible for these two parts returning to the days of 1950, but it is possible under existing conditions for a coalition Government to be agreed upon to move the country forward. The basis has already been laid and this column has pointed it out on many occasions. The PPP has supported shared governance in the past and ‘winner does not take all’ and Desmond Hoyte announced support for such a position in 2002.

The persons who advocate the consensus presidential candidate strategy, while they may continue to pursue that option as one strategy, ought not to succumb to the frustrations of gridlock in our political system. Countries like Guyana with a society divided in two major ethnic groups which generally rely on the two major political parties to represent their interests and who have had a history of inter ethnic violence and upheavals will never find it easy to arrive at a political accommodation. All must therefore continue to patiently advocate the only rational way forward for Guyana. That is a system of governance which involves both major political parties exercising executive authority in one form or another. There are or can be many different equations.

Guyana should never forget what Cheddi Jagan was prepared to do and how far he was prepared to go to end the political deadlock in the 1970s, to head off potential violence and to create a stable political system.  While this is not being suggested now, the example is worth recalling.

In the PPP’s National Patriotic Front proposals of 1977 it was agreed by the PPP, and formally proposed, that the political party which won the largest number of votes would hold the post of prime minister and would decline to contest the post of executive president under new constitutional arrangements. In the situation that was anticipated to emerge, and did emerge in 1992 in free and fair elections, the PPP would have won the largest amount of votes and Cheddi Jagan would have served as prime minister under executive president Forbes Burnham whose party would have won fewer votes than the PPP. In other words Cheddi Jagan was prepared to concede to Forbes Burnham the post of head of government to which he would have been entitled and to serve under Burnham in the interests peace, harmony and development.

We need to continue the effort to return our country to statesmanship of that quality.

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16 Comments

  1. Are you, Ralph, sidling to be that consensus Presidential Candidate?
    Aren’t you flogging a dead horse?
    Why don’t you come out and call for a National Reconciliation Council. See how fast the PNC will dismiss you!

  2. Consensus Presidential Candidate may be an option. However, the most recent elections gave an understanding of the degree of preparedness for embracing this magnanimous compromise. Granger and Greenidge had personal differences within APNU to elect a Presidential candidate from among their own membership. Khemraj Ramjattan and Raphael Trotman had issues. The PPP Donald Ramoutar and Ralph Ramkaran and Moses Nagamootoo could not see eye to eye when the time comes to elect a Presidential candidate. One can envisage the problems if all those are to come together now to elect or select a complete stranger from outside the membership of the opposition parties.

    1. Very timely observation, Dr Rudy. If they cannot see eye-to-eye with those they have known, and worked with, for years, how are they ever gonna surrender their ego, and seek shelter under a consensus umbrella.
      The Father of them all, Dr Jagan, taught that at a minimum, they must agree on a common Programme, and work towards satisfying the elements of that programme. Instead, what do we have here: each wants to be President! ha

  3. I have read Ralph Ramkarran’s article with concentration but, unlike some readers, not with consternation.
    Mr Ramkarran is not crusading for an APNU or AFC-APNU consensus presidential candidate. He is merely stating that “well meaning persons” are “raising the issue once again of a consensus presidential candidate for the Opposition.” And, as a political commentator, he gives his take on what those “well meaning persons” are proposing.
    Mr Ramkarran is proposing something different. Read this part of his article carefully:
    ” Countries like Guyana with a society divided in two major ethnic groups which generally rely on the two major political parties to represent their interests and who have had a history of inter ethnic violence and upheavals will never find it easy to arrive at a political accommodation. All must therefore continue to patiently advocate the only rational way forward for Guyana. That is a system of governance which involves both major political parties exercising executive authority in one form or another.”
    Mr Ramkarran is correct, absolutely. A consensus opposition presidential candidate may give the opposition victory at elections, but the chronic see-saw dead-end political culture and its attendant miseries for the population will not end.
    As the 2011 general elections showed, the PPP/C secured more votes than either APNU or the AFC. Any electoral victory that puts the PPP/C out of power will be a hollow win.
    That’s why Mr Ramkarran is for “a system of governance which involves both major political parties exercising executive authority in one form or another.”
    MANY READERS ARE MISSING THIS POINT.

  4. A Ramkarran/ Granger ticket ? Why not a Moses /Granger ticket?
    They know that historically anything the PNC touches turns to sh….! Walter Rodney made this observation a generation ago, and it is even truer today! Why do you think AFC did not seek shelter under the PNC/APNU umbrella in the last elections. They would not have even garnered the few seat they won in 2006?

  5. The Guyanese people are not stupid. The future belongs to a Ramkarran/Granger government where corruption will be put into the dust bin where it belongs. The AFC has to sort out its own corruption issues. The Guyanese people does not have the luxary to wait for that. That is why I say. The future of Guyana is now in the hands of Ramkarran and Granger.

  6. “Luxary”, Pat ? Even the Guyanese People know not what you’re talking about!
    And, is Ramkarran game for your advocacy? I think Cde Boysie would have a say…even from the great Beyond!

  7. Time is a luxury most Guyanese do not have. There soon will be nothing left for the poor people of Guyana if Ramkarran and Granger do not act. Comrade Boysie was
    was forced to quit the PPP party when he stood up for what was right. He would understand Ralph’s position.

  8. Cde Boysie did not quit the PPP. Let Ralph come here and deny that. Boysie served until he could serve no more. He stayed on to the very end. Boysie and Cheddi were like two peas in a pod. If Boysie today would be a part of any sell-out on the part of his son…unheard of!
    If Boysie was dis-satisfied and disgruntled, how come Ralph and Beni remained with the PPP decades ofter the demise of the goodly Boysie… Ralph up to a few months ago, and Beni still in a diplomatic position, representing the PPP Govt?

  9. bhikam, it is very clear that you may not know the real hstory of the PPP. Most likely you may be just a junior in the party so you accept what you are told. Cde Boysie may have quit the PPP party an angry man.

  10. Lets get back to the contents of the article and not get off track by other issues. It was an excellent article which every Guyanese should read.

  11. As far as Indo Guyanese are concerned, neither Granger nor anyone tainted PNC can be in any Consensus Presidential equation.

  12. Indo Guyanese are not a whole group that vote PPP. If that was the case this PPP government would have a majority government which they do not have.

  13. Pat,
    Look how easily yu fall into the PNC trap – that the PPP is a minority govt!
    1. Which Party won more votes, and more seats in the 2011 elections? PPP got 49% of the votes, APNU/PNC got 42%, and AFC got 9% ( These are not exact figures) !
    2. You are aware, I assume, that thousands of votes from the West coast of Demerara ( A PPP stronghold) were not counted. That would have taken the PPP over the majority threshold.
    Why wouldn’t APNU/PNC agree to a recount , as demanded by the PPP?
    3. When was there a time that the PPP did not garner a majority at the Polls, even after 28 years in the Political wilderness. Why would 2011 be any different, especially bearing in mind the stupendous accomplishments of the Party in Govt over the past 20 years?
    If those whom Dr Jagan nursed into political maturity in the PPP – like Ralph and Moses and Ramjattan and the other hangers-on – did not put their selfish, personal ambitions in front of the Party and People and Country, then there is no doubt that the Party might have won their biggest majority in 2011. But, as life would have it, opportunism triumphed over Country and Party.
    History will judge these neemak-harams harshly!

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