Leaking information to the press is an old and revered tradition in a democracy. In the United States today, leaking is an essential element in the controversies surrounding the Trump presidency. It was leaks by “Deep Throat” that exposed the Watergate scandal that brought down President Nixon in 1974. It is therefore not surprising that the AFC is mad at its Canadian leaders for leaking emails that somewhat contradicted its leadership’s contention that it was not consulted about the appointment of the Chair of the Elections Commission (Gecom) by President Granger.
The AFC drew support across the ethnic divide. But it was its support from Guyanese Indians that enabled the APNU+AFC coalition to breast the tape at the 2015 elections. Despite this, the AFC has shown a palpable lack of understanding of the depth of fear of Guyanese Indians, and others, at the perpetual presence of the elephant in the political room, the fear that APNU will rig the next elections. The unilateral appointment of a Chair for Gecom exacerbated that fear. And the AFC knows that they believe the evidence which caused the fear. First, APNU in its PNC form, has a history of election rigging from 1968 to 1985. Second, the PNC by itself has never won more than 42 percent of the vote in free and fair elections. Third, the AFC has lost substantial support and its contribution to the coalition at the next elections will be very modest. Fourth, this will keep the coalition below 50 percent. Fifth, in a two-party contest, the PPP will win. The answer? Rig! The AFC’s insensitivity to this scenario and its failure to persuade, or seek to persuade, the President to adopt a different approach to the appointment of the Gecom chair, has lost it substantial credibility. This is what the dispute with its Canadian leaders symbolizes.
While Guyana is not the same country that it was in the 1960s to the 1980s, and the main political parties have changed, there is one constant: the fundamental condition of Guyanese society for most of its history is the ethnic competition between its major races and this has given rise to the permanent struggle for ethno-political dominance. The reason for the break-up of the PNC-UF coalition in 1964 was the desire for ethno-political dominance. We know how that was achieved from 1968 to 1985! This memory is seared in the consciousness of Guyanese and, in particular, Guyanese Indians because they attribute the rigging of elections as being designed to deprive them of political power. In divided societies, the memory of events which are believed by one ethnic group to be directed against it by the other does not recede. The burden of victimhood does not lighten. This the AFC has failed to understand this and it will cost it even more of its Guyanese Indian support. Let me hasten to add. The sense of victimhood is not confined to Indians. It is felt by Guyanese Africans as well, against Indians and Indian leaders but for other reasons.
Fundamental to the AFC’s credo is the end of ‘racial’ politics. Constitutional reform is supposed to be the means by which this would be achieved. The proposals include separate presidential and parliamentary elections with the president requiring fifty percent plus one vote, the vice president being the candidate who secured second place and all parties with more than 15 percent of the vote having a place in the government.
Because of this credo, the AFC attracted a large swath of enthusiastic, middle class, support which also contributed to its successes in 2011 and 2015. The failure of the government to proceed with constitutional reform, and the AFC’s seeming inability to push this agenda, has therefore deprived the AFC of much of its credibility and raison d’etre. If the AFC has been pushing for constitutional reform and the government as a whole has been dragging its feet, the time has come for the AFC ministers to resign from the government. It cannot sustain its credibility while remaining ineffective in relation to the most important aspects of its platform. Further lack of success will leave its credibility in tatters. As backbench MPs, it will be far more influential and respected because at any time it would be able to bring down the government. It will then be in a far stronger position to make demands for fulfillment of coalition promises on constitutional reform and other matters.
By resigning its ministries, the AFC will restore some of its credibility and perhaps support. The public will see that for the AFC, political office and the perks are of less importance than political principle; that the AFC is determined to ensure that its policy of the end of racial politics is implemented; and that the AFC is a party of integrity. The new relationship between APNU and the AFC, with the AFC out of the government but its members sitting on the back benches, should be the subject of the new or amended accord, whether negotiated in Cummingsburg or elsewhere, which the AFC is proposing to have with APNU.