Now that Nomination Day has come and gone, after all the buzz about the need for a “third force” to deny both the PPP and PNC a majority and use their strategic few seats like jujitsu in the National Assembly to steer development in a non-partisan direction, the opportunity was allowed to slip away. There will now be eleven small parties to contest the elections of March 2 against the PPP/C and APNU/AFC.
Frankly, I was not surprised at this outcome. Early in 2005, we had written: “ROAR believes it is time for a “centre force” to be created and nurtured. What is this centre force? For one, it’s not a “third force” that feels it can wish away the PPP and PNC. It’s a force that should seek to occupy the political, social, and cultural ground between the PPP and PNC – hence “centre”. Today, in Guyana, there are a number of political parties outside the ambit of the PPP and the PNC – GAP, WPA, ROAR, UP, JFAP, etc that can begin the process of creating this centre force. These could be joined by the parties now in formation by other committed Guyanese. What would be some of the incentives for these parties to work together?
“There’s the experience of The United Force with the PNC that demonstrates the inadvisability of the smaller parties seeking a coalition arrangement with the behemoths. There’s the matter of “the disequilibrium of size” when it comes to coalitions between parties of vastly different strengths. It matters not the good intentions of the parties to the coalitions. If a mosquito joins forces with an elephant it should not be surprised when it is taken for granted or even ignored during crucial decisions. Then there’s the “iron law of oligarchy” – in all organisations power will accrete in the hands of a few – and we can be sure the few won’t come from the ranks of the mosquitoes.
“What would be the ground rules for a centre force? Firstly, they should not get together simply to deny the PPP or PNC the Government. And secondly, their success would depend on whether the principals in the abovementioned groupings can rise to the need of the moment and work on a common program for Guyana. The issue would then be not whether the PPP or PNC forms the Government but that either of them would have to negotiate with the third/centre force on the basis of what’s good for all of Guyana.”
The above-mentioned groups – plus several others – did come together but decided to call themselves the “third force”. We agreed on five “Core Principles” that would guide our relationship with each other and the Guyanese people and proceeded to work on a common programme. The Chairmanship was rotated among the leadership of the parties and there were regularly scheduled meetings. But the initiative was aborted and I believe the reasons for that failure might have played a role in the present dispensation.
First, there was the question of leadership and egos. One group – the newcomer that was to become the AFC – insisted that they should lead whatever endeavour that ensued. It was not clear to others then as to why this should be so and the long-established WPA was quite scathing about their insistence. Secondly, there was the question of strategy: whether the group should be open to joining with the PNC, which had launched its “big tent” initiative. This was pushed by the WPA and as a matter of fact, ROAR and GAP pulled out of the group after the WPA and several others met with the PNC.
Eventually, ROAR, which had been taken aback by what they considered to be racist reasons for denying leadership to the Amerindian party, GAP, coalesced with the latter, conceded them the “presidential” spot but they managed to only secure one seat which by common consent was given to GAP. The AFC was formed after the breakup of the Third Force and went on to significant success because of their foreign assistance. But ironically, they have now destroyed themselves because they ignored the rationale for a “third or centre force”.
We suspect efforts to craft coalitions among the present new partiers might have foundered on the same rocks of leadership, egos and strategy and will prove fatal to their chances in March. They refused to hang together and will hang separately.