Some writers feel Guyana’s current Burnham Constitution does not allow for pre or post-election coalition. Coalitions are allowed and have been used by the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) in its Civic appendage and the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) alliance. But the Civic component has become dysfunctional. If the PPP is to improve its chances at the next election, coalition with other forces is the way to go.
Coalition formation has been utilised in countless countries including UK, Germany, France, etc. In Guyana’s constitutional setting, because the party or alliance that wins the most votes forms the government, pre-election coalition boost electoral chances. The PPP should have formed a coalition in 2011 when it lost its majority for government survival. The People’s National Congress (PNC) and the AFC have learned from the PPP’s failure at embracing coalition politics and is now in office to the detriment of the PPP.
The PNC, Working People’s Alliance, the Justice For All and other minor parties formed a coalition (APNU) and contested the 2011 elections. The PPP won the most votes and formed a minority Government (32 out of 65 seats). Recognising they can’t win an election on their own, the APNU (PNC) and AFC formed a coalition with agreed upon terms and conditions in contesting the 2015 elections. The coalition removed the PPP from office although many of the agreed upon conditions were not enforced because the AFC has not insisted on implementation. The AFC should have insisted on honouring the agreement – it would have gotten its way and Guyana would have been a much better place today.
There was nothing precluding the formation of an alliance between the PPP and another party in 2011.
One party majoritarian politics cannot work in multi-ethnic Guyana; parties must be prepared to share power. In political science, I learn half a loaf is better than none. In elections, outcomes are not guaranteed as the PPP found in 2011 and 2015 and as Prime Minister May found in the UK. It is better to share power rather than be completely out of power. If nothing else, the PPP should have learned that basic lesson from the last two elections. Coalition or alliance will help the PPP at the next election. Those opposed to coalition politics are not political science scholars who have studied ethnic politics. Had they studied ethnic politics worldwide, they would think differently.
The PPP Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo, is talking national unity; his party should line up behind him. Jagdeo stated publicly in NY, he would embrace all opposition and civic groups willing to work with him. This is a step in the right direction quite different from the position of his predecessors and the tact adopted by the PPP prior to the 2015 election that cost it the government. The terms and conditions for such an engagement or alliance needs clarification to attract takers. The PPP must show it is willing to work with all for improvement of Guyana.
Dr Vishnu Bisram