In the wake of the crisis precipitated by the blatant manipulation of the elections results in the tabulation of Reg 4 SOPs by elements in GECOM, led by the Returning Officer (RO), which has led to almost universal condemnation and threats of “consequences”, most have called for the stalled election process to be consummated with a recount – either total or only Reg 4.
However, two groups drawn from primarily the African Guyanese constituency – ACDA and the WPA – while calling for a total recount, have tied it to a commitment by whichever party that wins to form a power sharing government of national unity. This government would be constituted for a stipulated period, during which constitutional reform would be initiated to alter the mode of governance to a permanent power sharing arrangement.
These groups, in our estimation, are ignoring our still unfolding history with such a “national coalition” that the PNC claimed was formed in 2015 when the “six parties” in APNU coalesced with the AFC and won the elections. The PPP has always held itself open for a more inclusive form of government, but in response to such calls from the PNC under Desmond Hoyte in 2002 just before he passed away, with the PPP’s long history and knowledge of the PNC, it insisted that there was a need for more “trust” to be developed between the two parties.
Historically, the PNC had always counted on the reflexive support of the key institutions of the state – the army, the police, the public service, and other putatively “autonomous” institutions, such as GECOM – which allowed them to literally and figuratively “flex their muscles” even out of office. When they ran for office as the APNU/AFC coalition, the PNC included several “power sharing” proposals that would be implemented immediately, and promised more following constitutional reform. None of this occurred, and the PNC faction ran the government without any consultation with their “partners”.
The WPA complained bitterly about this state of affairs. Its actions over the past five years in Government certainly could not have inspired any confidence in the PPP that the PNC’s ideal of “paramountcy” had been tempered over time. In its 2015 Manifesto, the PNC explicitly abjured any commitment to power sharing, and one has to ask why should the PPP believe that the PNC would not use their reflexive support in the state institutions to render the PPP impotent in any coalition government, as they did to the AFC? Especially when they massively buttressed those institutions with massive recruitment from their constituency.
But those who are beating the “shared governance” model, now that it is clear the PNC have lost the elections and have shown their true colours in their reaction to the loss, are ignoring a most significant development, which bodes well for Guyana. This is the fact that, in Guyana today, no one ethnic group commands an absolute majority: as of the last census, Indian Guyanese are 39%; African Guyanese 31%; Mixed Guyanese 19% and Indigenous Peoples 11%. This means that for any party to win an election by an absolute majority, that party would have to be able to step outside of its traditional constituency and reach across the historic divide to garner “cross-over” votes.
This was ironically proven in 2015 by the APNU/AFC coalition when they ousted the PPP from office, even though the latter had the advantage of incumbency. If the PNC have lost this election, as is clear by their desperate attempts to rig it, it means they were unable to retain the support they agglomerated in 2015. As in any democracy, what they ought to have done was to accept the will of the people and engage in some collective self-retrospection to find out where they “went wrong”, and recalibrate for the next elections in five years’ time.
At long last we have reached a point where we can practise democratic politics, and it is this development we would be derailing if the PNC were allowed to get away with their rigging.