As with so many of the aphorisms distilling wisdom into pithy utterances, it was the Bard who proposed that “what’s past is prologue”. Meaning that history sets a context for the present and the unfolding of the future. And so, in reviewing the just-released “manifesto which is not a manifesto” of the APNU/AFC coalition, it will be useful to review their prologue in their past exercise of 2015. We have also been warned that history may even repeat itself: “first as tragedy and then as farce”.
In 2015, the raison d’etre for the claimed greater legitimacy for the promises encompassed in their manifesto was the claim that APNU and AFC would create a form of governance in its “coalition of six parties” that was uniquely suited to the sociological demands on our political system: addressing ethnic factionalism. This claim was emphasised once again by the leader of the PNC, APNU and Presidential Candidate David Granger and his Prime Ministerial candidate, the leader of the AFC. It is important, therefore, that we interrogate this claim since then entire enterprise of the APNU/AFC combine rests on it.
In 2015, the manifesto included the Cummingsburg Accord which spelt out the agreement between the five parties in APNU and the AFC, and which sought to present the coalition as a form of “power-sharing” in which the constituent parties would be allocated power commensurate with the constituency each was supposed to represent. But even before this Accord, there were grave doubts as to the bona fides of the four parties that had coalesced with the PNC to form the APNU. None of them, on their own, when their alliance was formed in 2011, was then capable of even obtaining a single seat in the National Assembly. GAP was the only parliamentary party but its sole seat was garnered in coalition with ROAR. In terms of the legitimacy of wider societal group representation, APNU suffered from fatal defects.
It obviously recognised this impediment to securing the threshold necessary agglomeration of votes to secure the presidency, even by a plurality, since its constituency was almost completely bereft of votes from the Indian Guyanese section, which formed a plurality of the Guyanese populace. This undermined any claim to its greater legitimacy for governance. APNU then sought and acquired the acceptance of the AFC for a coalition, specifically to secure that imprimatur of the “11%” Indian vote they claimed to have attracted in 2011. Their Cummingsburg Accord sought to spell out the division of Executive power if their coalition were to be elected, based on this demographic arithmetic.
The Prime Minister was to be selected by the AFC and he would have augmented powers, culled from the President. He was supposed to Chair the Cabinet, have an input into the selection of Ministers and be in charge of “domestic affairs”. None of these promises that formed the foundation of the supposedly new governmental dispensation was ever implemented. Granger claimed he was precluded from doing so because of “constitutional constraints”, which was, in fact, a fiction of his own contrivance. Consequently, the Indian Guyanese constituency which the AFC claimed to have brought into the coalition, was never even notionally represented. This reality vitiated any claim to a wider legitimacy for the “six-party” coalition, which was exemplified in the scant regard for their opinions on policy matters during the past five years.
This time, the “new” Cummingsburg Accord has not even been included as an addendum to the “manifesto which is not a manifesto”. Most likely, this is because there is now not even a pretence of “sharing power” with the AFC’s “constituency” by the PNC. In fact, the Accord has not been seen by the public in its entirety, but it slipped out that even though announced on Valentine’s Day it is a morganatic marriage since the AFC PM candidate will not succeed Granger if he were to demit office for whatever reason.
The foundation of the APNU/AFC claim to greater legitimacy has collapsed once again.