There can be no doubt that APNU’s decision to support the AFC’s no confidence motion when it is tabled in the National Assembly is a bold and decisive move. Political parties generally do not take such chances without some indication that they have a good opportunity of winning the elections or at least changing the political configuration. Winning in Guyana’s context and under our constitutional provisions means one of the two opposition parties obtaining an absolute majority or a plurality which will enable it to have the presidency and form the government, whether coalition or not. Changing the political configuration means reducing the PPP/C’s vote and increasing that of the opposition short of ‘winning’ as described above.
The opposition parties have no scientific way of knowing the state of support for political parties. They can only guess, not assess on the basis of evidence, whether either one of the above possibilities exist. They obviously know something that the public does not know because they must be aware that the PPP has worked assiduously to rebuild its infrastructure and has been claiming that it will win the elections. The opposition parties may well have set their sights on an even more modest goal – obtaining the same or similar results in the hope that it will prove to the PPP that it cannot sustain minority governance.
As I discussed last week, the Opposition’s agenda has run its course and has brought little material benefits to its supporters or the country at large. The political climate of gridlock and stalemate is creating apathy towards all parties. In these circumstances it had little choice. Initially I felt that APNU had no option but to support the motion at the appropriate time. However, after the PNCR Congress, the divisions which emerged in the Party appeared to militate against support for the motion. It is clear that the leadership of the Party feels that elections will unite the Party behind the effort to remove the PPP from office.
The PPP had an opportunity to avoid elections but chose not to accept it. After the AFC wrote to President Ramotar indicating its intention to table the no confidence motion, the President dared the AFC to proceed. A subsequent letter by the AFC to the President setting out a ten-point programme for discussion, which could have been the occasion for prolonged engagement, was peremptorily dismissed by the President and the PPP thereafter repeatedly declared its readiness for elections. The PPP and the Government cannot therefore be surprised that the motion will now be going forward. In any event the PPP must know that there is a limited longevity for minority governments.
Knowing this, it was expected that together with strengthening its machinery, it would have offered goodies to the electorate in order to give it a fighting chance to retrieve its majority. There was no way the Opposition could have opposed policies which would have given benefits to the population. It might not have worked but this is the tried and tested strategy of minority governments not wanting or being unable to enter into a coalition. Instead the Government decided to operate as if it were the majority. As expected, the Opposition did not ‘co-operate.’ Nevertheless, the PPP has stumbled upon a strategy – accusing the Opposition of being unpatriotic and of sabotaging developments. But this approach suggests that the PPP seriously believes that its electoral losses in 2011 were due to creaking machinery, which has since been corrected and that as a consequence it will win the elections. We shall see whether the PPP’s analysis was accurate.
All that is happening today is new for Guyana. The elections will determine whether Guyana will retain one-party, majority governance at least for the next five years or will enter the stage of coalition governments, which is the usual outcome of the electoral system of proportional representation. In the former case, the PPP/C returns to office with untramelled authority, unlikely to give more than nodding acknowledgement to the existence of an Opposition which it claims subverted national development. In the latter case, the past three years have proved beyond doubt that minority governance is not sustainable and the political parties might well decide to come together to determine the road ahead with all being conscious of the fact that the electorate would have twice directed that specific course.
It is not known the depth of interest to which the electorate will respond to the elections. Will apathy play a larger role this time around or not? Will policy take a back seat to the cuss down, wine down and backballing of the last elections? Perhaps not, judging from the tone in the State owned and other pro government media. But hopefully the memorable ditties deployed with some imagination in the past will be superceded by new ones which will continue to entertain. The last one – ‘Dem a watch me’ – was hilariously turned by the Opposition to its own advantage. One needs to eke out one’s own entertainment out of what would be the long and depressing sameness of our political campaigns.