A hapless Opposition and governance

In a Parliamentary democracy, which our Constitution secures as inviolable, the Opposition plays a key role as a “Government in waiting”. It is often referred to as “the loyal Opposition” because of its loyalty to the state, not the incumbent Government. As such, it is expected that the Opposition would conduct itself responsibly in and out of Parliament, since to do otherwise would be to cut the limb on which it sits; and that is what the PNC, the AFC, and the other minor parties in the Opposition are doing right now.
There are some in the Opposition coalition – especially from one of its minor members – who are still insisting that “shared governance” is most apt for Guyana, because of our “ethnic politics”. They ignore or downplay the objections to this model, which are legion; the major one being that history has shown – especially in a country with weak institutional safeguards in Government and society, such as in Guyana – the state can be captured and exploited by and for such occupants of governmental office. A loyal Opposition keeps a Government on its toes by exposing its faux pas and excesses. With all of the ethnic-based parties sitting at the table – or trough – in proportion to the numbers of their members, there is no incentive to weaken ethnic voting, but to actually strengthen it. Ethnic voting therefore becomes more entrenched.
More concretely, the same Coalition won the elections but never implemented their Manifesto promise to introduce the shared governance model. Instead, even within their Coalition, its largest component – the PNC – reneged on its promise to boost the powers of its AFC Prime Minister – much less reach across to the Opposition PPP, as was also promised. In a shared governance arrangement, it is critical that all decisions, but especially those that affect particular constituencies, involve the representatives of those constituencies. The PNC showed, in its 5 years in their coalition Government, that it obsessively refused to discuss, much less consult, with its putative “partners”. Against this background, the PPP would be rather naive to enter into shared governance with the PNC: why would they change?
But all this talk of shared governance is now moot, because, as has been repeatedly pointed out in this space, the changed demographics due primarily to emigration have ensured that there are no ethnic majorities since 2011. As such, rational political parties should now be moderating their rhetoric of ethnic appeal to attract voters from other groups. At long last, while there remains at this time the core ethnic bases of the two major parties, whichever gets into office through free and fair elections means that they were successful in securing cross-over votes. This then gives them greater legitimacy for governing the country, and for ethnic voting to weaken.
But, right now, the PNC as the major Opposition party, is demonstrating it is even incapable of fulfilling its Opposition role. And, as such, presents a clear and present danger to the peace and stability of our country. After losing the elections, the PNC has been unable to effect what should have been a simple succession process in its leadership structure. It stems from the authoritarian, anti-democratic nature of its concept of “leadership”.
When Norton won the PNC leadership election, he did so on a slate he cobbled together, and which he insisted occupy all Executive positions. The most telling instance was when there was a tie between one of his candidates and an established PNC Executive for the Vice Chairmanship. He manoeuvred for the latter to step aside. He was following in the footsteps of his predecessors, starting with Burnham, to exert total control via executives who had no independent bases and were beholden to him. Never mind that this alienates established executives, weakens the party, and encourages a maximum leader.
Granger, who did the same, is now trying to head him off. But in the meantime, the danger of extra-parliamentary activities increases from restive members.