Dr Jef­frey’s pro­posal for power shar­ing is a non­starter and will be dis­missed as utopian in­tel­lec­tu­al­iz­ing

Stabroek News - - LETTERS -

Dear Edi­tor, Dr. Henry Jef­frey’s col­umn: “Fu­ture Notes” has over the years es­tab­lished a rep­u­ta­tion as be­ing in­for­ma­tive, cre­ative and at times, po­lit­i­cally chal­leng­ing. His col­umn pub­lished in Stabroek News in the November 7th, 2018 edi­tion, cap­tioned: `Well, David: What now? Sri Lanka?’ has raised the bar in cre­ative pol­i­tics, beyond what in the con­text of the Guyanese ex­pe­ri­ence is po­lit­i­cally pos­si­ble.

Dr. Jef­frey, more than any other pub­lic com­men­ta­tor, in the post-2015 gen­eral and re­gional elec­tions, must be given credit for his re­lent­less ad­vo­cacy in re­mind­ing the na­tion and its po­lit­i­cal lead­ers that the most im­por­tant is­sue which has di­vided and hin­dered the eco­nomic and so­cial de­vel­op­ment of the coun­try is yet to be ad­dressed. Con­sti­tu­tional re­form, which was an APNU+AFC coali­tion man­i­festo com­mit­ment is, in Jef­frey’s opin­ion, achiev­able. In pur­suit of this goal, he took the op­por­tu­nity to en­gage Dr. David Hinds’ ob­ser­va­tions in re­la­tion to power shar­ing in the con­text of the present dynamic in the APNU+AFC coali­tion and govern­ment. Un­like Hinds, Jef­frey sees a glim­mer of hope, which he seeks to bring into fruition by ad­vanc­ing his thought-pro­vok­ing pro­posal.

While I agree with his anal­y­sis and most of the con­clu­sions I was taken aback by the pro­posal he ad­vanced to ad­dress and cor­rect our un­work­able gov­er­nance sys­tem of win­ner takes all, and to en­sure that the APNU+AFC hon­our its elec­tion prom­ise be­fore the end of its man­date in 2020.

Mr. Jef­frey’s pro­posal is set out here: “Be it only at the lo­cal level, now that the par­ties are for the first time since 2015 in­di­vid­u­ally test­ing their strength at the polls, the pres­i­dent should utilise the results to reshuf­fle the govern­ment, of­fer­ing the prime min­is­ter­ship and an agreed upon num­ber of min­is­ters to the party that – apart from his – gains the high­est votes at the November 12th lo­cal elec­tions. The next largest party, which is most likely to be the AFC, should not be dis­carded, but in keeping with the coali­tion cam­paign prom­ise, the process of elec­toral re­form should im­me­di­ately be­gin and end in time for the 2020 gen­eral and re­gional elec­tions.”

In ad­vanc­ing this pro­posal Dr. Jef­frey must be con­scious that he is ask­ing the pres­i­dent to bring about th­ese changes by uni­lat­er­ally us­ing ex­ec­u­tive author­ity, which has been a main con­tention in the pol­i­tics of the coun­try, since the in­tro­duc­tion of the 1980 con­sti­tu­tion. For the pres­i­dent to take such an un­wise ac­tion out­side of a con­sul­ta­tive frame­work, which must in­clude the PPP as well as the APNU’s coali­tion part­ners, and the AFC, will ex­pose him to more crit­i­cisms of dic­ta­to­rial be­hav­iour. While the in­ten­tion of the pro­posal is in the na­tional in­ter­est, to move to im­ple­ment it with­out the req­ui­site con­sul­ta­tions and agree­ment will ren­der it po­lit­i­cally coun­ter­pro­duc­tive. Since there is no way it can suc­ceed, by the adop­tion of Jef­frey’s pro­posed uni­lat­eral method, it is likely to do more harm than good to the APNU, the coali­tion, the African com­mu­nity, and Guyana. In short, it will serve to con­firm the his­tor­i­cal fears ped­dled with some mea­sure of ef­fec­tive­ness by the PPP and other de­trac­tors of the PNCR, APNU, and coali­tion, who have sought to equate African lead rule with po­lit­i­cal dic­ta­tor­ship.

An­other prob­lem in­her­ent in the pro­posal is the squash­ing of the Cum­mings­burg agree­ment that gave rise to the APNU+AFC coali­tion. Jef­frey, as an af­ter­thought, took care to say that the AFC should not be “dis­carded” – how to avoid this out­come bog­gles the mind. Equally im­por­tant is the logic that the PPP will be in­ter­ested in such a pro­posal af­ter a strong show­ing in the lo­cal govern­ment elec­tions. Given that party’s po­si­tion of demon­strat­ing lit­tle or no in­ter­est in con­sti­tu­tion re­form, power-shar­ing and na­tional govern­ment, one will be forced to work over­time to find rea­sons for the PPP to agree to such a pro­posal. The PPP’s lead­er­ship will in­ter­pret the pro­posal as a ploy by Granger, the PNCR and the APNU to save face for what the PPP an­tic­i­pates will be a poor show­ing by the coali­tion par­ties and de­feat at the 2020 elec­tion. The PPP will want to re­main aloof from such a ma­jor po­lit­i­cal de­ci­sion with all of its in­her­ent jeop­ar­dies in­clud­ing them risk­ing alien­at­ing sec­tions of its con­stituency and a pos­si­ble rup­ture of its in­ter­nal party unity, given their ques­tion­able be­lief that vic­tory in 2020 is as­sured.

With­out try­ing to put pressure on Dr. Jef­frey I am in­ter­ested in his rea­son­ing, given the points I have men­tioned above. In my at­tempt to ar­rive at a meet­ing of minds with Dr. Jef­frey, I can only con­ceive of one pos­si­ble area in which the pro­posal may be at­trac­tive to the PPP. But here again given that party’s ap­par­ent para­noia in re­la­tion to “Rigged elec­tions” it is dif­fi­cult to see the PPP ris­ing above this mind­set. It can be ar­gued that the PPP, as a sig­nif­i­cant part of the govern­ment, will be bet­ter placed to pro­tect its in­ter­ests and avoid be­ing a vic­tim of what they be­lieve will be elec­toral rig­ging in 2020, de­spite the lack of any ev­i­dence they can point to that that is what is in­tended.

My own judge­ment is that given the present bal­ance of forces in the PPP and the present per­cep­tion that the APNU has be­come the PNCR and the pos­si­bil­ity of the col­lapse of the APNU+AFC coali­tion for the 2020 gen­eral and re­gional elec­tions – the PPP will take its chances with “win­ner take all elec­tions” and go to the polls in 2020 with the con­vic­tion, as win­ners they are en­ti­tled to take all. Its de­sire for po­lit­i­cal dom­i­na­tion will pre­vail over any other con­sid­er­a­tion.

In clos­ing, given Dr. Jef­frey’s pro­found knowl­edge of Guyanese pol­i­tics and its po­lit­i­cal play­ers, his pro­posal amounts to po­lit­i­cal des­per­a­tion. “Des­per­ate times re­quire des­per­ate so­lu­tions”. In re­al­ity, in spite of its good in­ten­tion, this pro­posal is a non­starter. It will be dis­missed by both sides as “utopian in­tel­lec­tu­al­iz­ing”. Yours faith­fully, Tacuma Ogun­s­eye

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