The biggest threat to Guyana: APNU’s unhinged obsession with power

Dear Editor,
Democracy – whether Parliamentary, Presidential, or semi-Presidential – works well to preclude the dominance of a single political party in a country. If the party that rules fails to fulfill its mandate, it can be voted out of office. This is the ultimate way elected officials are held accountable. This contrasts with non-democratic systems in which “a single dominant party is the norm.”
Politicians who believe that the ruling party is not delivering on its promises, and that they have a viable alternative, will find that this arrangement is the best opportunity to replace the party in power.
All political parties in Guyana believe this, except APNU. APNU has a jaundiced view of democracy, and that represents the biggest threat confronting Guyana.
Democratic systems impose on all political parties which aspire to represent citizens’ interests the obligation to seek office ONLY through the mechanism of suffrage. Suffrage, the right to vote, is the lifeblood of democracy. It is so fundamental to governance that some countries have made it compulsory on citizens to vote. Voters failing to exercise this right could be fined.
Today most democratic nations enjoy full suffrage, not circumscribed by gender, class or race, as was once the case. In the case of our own country, this right existed only in name a few decades ago. The whole process was hijacked through intimidation and rigging by the ruling PNC Government, making a travesty of suffrage.
Furthermore, democratic systems make it obligatory on all political parties to abide by the electoral rules that govern “how votes are cast, counted, and translated into seats in the Legislature.” By implication, parties appealing to voters cannot frame their messages in incendiary and inflammatory language. Ideas and vision about governance can be articulated only on the basis of decency and respect, however impassioned political parties may feel about what they have to offer.
Acceptance and cooperation after elections’ results are declared are corollaries to the exercise of suffrage, and conformity to this principle could be considered the fulcrum of a functioning democracy. Conversely, raising controversial issues and adopting a posture of confrontation, especially in volatile situations, can be the tinderbox of social unrest and violence.
This is what makes APNU so dangerous. Since August, when the PPP assumed power, the nation has witnessed a plethora of threatening statements coming from APNU. In the aftermath of some of these statements, we have witnessed levels of unruliness that can belong only to the realm of power-drunkenness. One would think that a period of three months is enough time for any political party to come to grips with its responsibility in post-elections Guyana.
Unwavering commitment to nation-building, on which elections’ campaigns usually take place, is the litmus test for political candidates after a new Government has been formed. The APNU attitude clearly indicates that its members have failed that test. Commitment to national goals is measured by the extent of cooperation and willingness that opposition parties display. Statements like “stiff resistance” in the context of Guyana’s volatility bring into question avowed love of country and commitment to democracy.
This kind of behaviour degrades the very concept of political participation, and militates against efforts and strategies to achieve harmony and a sense of national unity.
This does not preclude the existence of a strong Opposition. Contrary to what some may think, adversarial relations between the ruling party and the parties in Opposition are not necessarily a bad thing. This could have a constraining effect on the ruling party. People in power do deviate from the mission of serving people, and focus instead on enriching themselves. This must not be allowed, and the need for a serious and vibrant opposition is underscored.
When sentiments of dissatisfaction are exercised in a measured and sensible way, the ruling party would be forced to govern in a more transparent and accountable manner. Nothing would be taken for granted by the party in Government. In other words, the door to complacency would be closed. This ought to be the role of the Opposition, not derailing progressive policies through innuendoes or overt actions.
But that is not APNU’s way. Progressive engagement is anathema to the APNU, as the obsession with power is really what defines its members. When the quest for power is nothing more than an extension of the desire to serve the people, acceptance and cooperation would form the natural mindset of those in Opposition. This in no way implies docility and timidity on the part of the Opposition. If that were the case, it would be better for candidates to give up politics altogether.
The attitude of passiveness is as dangerous as the brazen attempt by APNU to upend the progressive measures that have been put in place to make Guyana a model of development. Such repeated attempts demonstrate that APNU’s hankering for power is not motivated by any desire to serve the people. On the contrary, everything APNU does is self-serving. The ambition of its members is to be in the seat of Government, no matter the price the country must pay for that to happen. This is dangerous for the country. However, in the end, it will be the bane of the party.

Sheik M Ayube