Uncompromising politics

If there is one overriding characteristic of the David Granger regime, it is his refusal to compromise with any of the political forces both inside and outside of his coalition. In this regard, he was acting in accord with the posture of the PNC established by its founder, Forbes Burnham. In the negotiations with the AFC to coalesce for the 2015 elections, there were great expectations aroused with the signing of the Cummingsburg Accord that the position might have changed. But these hopes were soon dashed after the elections. Even the WPA, which was the only credible group that coalesced earlier with the PNC to become APNU, constantly complained about the lack of consultation in crafting governmental policies.
This hardline refusal to compromise is best illustrated by Granger’s actions in choosing a new GECOM Chair following the retirement of Steve Surujbally. First, he insisted that only a judge qualified for the slot, even though Art 161 (2) had been specifically altered to add to that requirement “or any other fit and proper person.” He even dubbed the Chief Justice’s ruling as her “perception”, and insisted he was entitled to his. Finally, he refused to select a nominee from three lists of six names submitted by the Opposition Leader in accordance with the above act, which was designed to encourage a compromise between him and the Opposition Leader on the selection of this key figure.
The matter is with the CCJ, but Granger’s move has made the matter moot before the next elections.
His handling of the successful NCM in the National Assembly has further reinforced — if at all that were needed — Granger’s inflexible position. There were several opportunities wherein he could have flexed with the Opposition Leader on enforcing the constitutionally sanctioned elections date without recourse to the courts; but, not surprisingly, that was a road not taken, and we have a country at its most severe level of polarisation since the 1964 ethnic violence.
Back in 2012, as the polarisation of politics was becoming intensified both quantitatively and qualitatively in the US, political scientists Amy Gutman and Dennis Thompson offered some very salutary advice to our political elites in their book, “The Spirit of Compromise: Why Governing Demands It and Campaigning Undermines It”.
“If politics is the art of the possible, then compromise is the artistry of democracy. Unless one partisan ideology holds sway over all branches of government, compromise is necessary to govern for the benefit of all citizens. A rejection of compromise biases politics in favour of the status quo, even when the rejection risks crisis.
“Compromise is difficult, but governing a democracy without compromise is impossible. Why is compromise so hard in a democracy when it is undoubtedly necessary? Much of the resistance to compromise lies in another necessary part of the democratic process: campaigning for political office. Though valuable in its place, campaigning is increasingly intruding into governing, where it is less helpful. The means of winning an office are subverting the ends of governing once in office.
It is only a slight exaggeration to say that in (Guyana), “every day is election day in the permanent campaign”.
“Resistance to democratic compromise can be kept in check by a contrary cluster of attitudes and arguments — a compromising mindset which favours adapting one’s principles and respecting one’s opponents. It is the mindset more appropriate for governing, because it enables politicians to more readily recognise opportunities for desirable compromise. When enough politicians adopt it enough of the time, the spirit of compromise prevails.
“In general, compromise is an agreement in which all sides sacrifice something in order to improve on the status quo from their perspective, and in which the sacrifices are at least partly determined by the other sides’ will. The sacrifice involves not merely getting less than you want, but also, thanks to your opponents, getting less than you think you deserve. The sacrifice typically involves trimming your principles. We call these defining characteristics of compromise mutual sacrifice and wilful opposition.”
A hint to Beneba.