Reports suggest that APNU and the AFC have agreed on who gets what with regard to the upcoming March 2020 elections. Having been back and forth over the past few months, it appears that a sense of relief and satisfaction has come to overwhelm the AFC, more especially, one of its founders, Khemraj Ramjattan, who, reportedly, has been endorsed as the Prime Ministerial candidate for the coalition.
Prior to the 2015 elections, both APNU and the AFC entered into an agreement: the Cummingsburg Accord. The main components decided and signed to was that the AFC would be given the position of the Prime Ministerial candidate and 40% of the Parliamentary seats won, as a prerequisite for a pre-election coalition.
It seemed those components were adhered to after the coalition won the 2015 election. Over time, there were calls, reportedly from the AFC, for the accord to be renegotiated. In addition, the AFC was believably forced by APNU to contest the November 2018 Local Government Elections (LGE). It took a mauling at the polls and the strength it boasted of was exposed as a fallacy.
Many felt that the move by APNU to have the AFC contest the LGE separately was deliberate to gauge influence which was crucial for any review of the Cummingsburg Accord. With 40% of Parliamentary seats and the slot for the Prime Ministerial candidate decided in 2015, reportedly, some senior APNU officials were unhappy that the AFC got that much in the first place and were adamant it should not be given such a big share come 2020, especially following its abysmal failure at the 2018 LGE.
Sometime after 2015, the AFC’s Congress decided that the current Prime Minister, Moses Nagamootoo, will not be nominated as the candidate for that position for the March 2020 elections. Reports indicated that the party’s internal elections were hotly contested and very divisive.
In the end, Ramjattan emerged as the party’s Prime Ministerial candidate and allegedly, there was opposition to his candidacy from some within APNU. From reading between the lines of the President’s subsequent utterances, he may have given some credence to that perceived opposition.
The group that publicly spoke for the AFC held firm that Ramjattan must be the candidate and even threatened to contest the 2020 elections alone if their demands are not met. That prompted Mr David Granger to respond saying that only the President has the authority under the Constitution to elect a Prime Minister.
An arm of the State media reported him as saying, “The most important principle is that, any agreement should be in accordance with the Constitution of Guyana. So that is not subject to deadlines or threats”.
In the end, and based upon reports, Ramjattan has seemingly been accepted as the candidate and the AFC, reportedly left with no option, was apparently forced to accept 30% of parliamentary seats expected to be won. That’s 10% less than what was agreed to in 2015. Also, Ramjattan’s candidacy seems dependent on another agreement; one that would deter him from ascending to the Presidency if the coalition were to win and Mr Granger is unable to continue as President.
Aside from the seeming official confirmation that the AFC has lost political ground, two things become clear. One, Mr Granger’s convenient use of when the Constitution must be followed. He was firm that any revision of the Cummingsburg Accord must be in accordance with it.
That is a most duplicitous and disingenuous statement following how he and the coalition government flagrantly disregarded the Constitution in the wake of December 21, 2018, No-Confidence Motion (NCM) and the subsequent rulings and consequential orders of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).
That defiance of the Constitution was seen as a deliberate attempt by APNU/AFC to thwart the NCM and the snap election it precipitates.
From his actions, which eventually led to the CCJ declaring the APNU/AFC government as a caretaker one and deemed illegal after September 18, 2019, it appears that Mr Granger is prepared to disregard constitutional procedures even if it means contravening the rule of law.
Secondly, if he were to enter another agreement whereby the Prime Minister would not ascend to the Presidency if the President is unable to continue, he would once again be in contravention of the Constitution and his own statement on the need for it to be followed with regard to the Cummingsburg Accord.
The Constitution is clear; the Prime Minister ascends to the Presidency in the event of the President being unable to continue. This was done on two previous occasions.
In the current circumstances, it seems that Mr Granger is once again prepared to disregard the Constitution for the benefit of himself and his Government. This time around, he seems to be giving advance notice of his intent.