Sunday, August 15, 2010
Opposition in a state of panic
Rickey Singh: WITH ONE year to go before Guyana's next presidential and parliamentary elections, the combined opposition parties seem to be in a state of confusion, if not panic, over their intention to prevent the governing People's Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) from returning to power.
Since winning the 1992 general election, with a restoration of the electoral democracy (suspended for 24 years by a then governing People's National Congress (PNC) from 1968), the PPP/C has successively been returned to state power at internationally supervised elections.
Its presidential leadership candidates have been, first, Dr Cheddi Jagan, secondly Janet Jagan and then Bharrat Jagdeo, for the last two elections.
For the 2011 poll, expected not later than early September, both of the major parties -- PPP and People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) -- will have new presidential candidates.
The PNCR is currently seeking to "identify by a transparent process," according to General Secretary, Oscar Clarke, its presidential candidate.
The party's current and often embattled leader, Robert Corbin, has made it quite clear -- after two defeats -- that he would not be a presidential candidate for the 2011 poll. This, of course, does not mean he plans on voluntarily vacating the party's leadership any time soon.
For its part, the PPP/C is yet to give a clear signal about its likely presidential choice, since the incumbent and popular President Jagdeo is constitutionally debarred from seeking a third term.
The two PPP stalwarts most referenced in the media as potential presidential candidates are the party's General Secretary, Donald Ramotar, and the lawyer and current Speaker of Parliament, Ralph Ramkarran.
Question of interest would be the "transparent system" to be utilised by both the PPP and PNCR in determining their respective democratically-endorsed presidential candidate. We should perhaps have a better understanding of how this would be achieved, possibly before the end of September.
However, identifying a presidential candidate is also very much an issue for the Alliance for Change (AFC) that had presented itself as an alternative to both the PPP/C and PNCR at the August 2006 elections, only to end up with five parliamentary seats -- at least two of them at the expense of the PNCR.
Currently, it is far from clear whether the AFC's leader, Raphael Trotman, will again be given the nod as the 2011 presidential candidate. Or, will it be the party's chairman, Khemraj Ramjattan, who feels it's his turn, in a pledged rotation system?
As it is in relation to the PPP's Ramotar and Ramkarran, who have made clear their interest in securing the presidential candidate prize, Trotman and Ramjattan have neither concealed their desire to get the AFC's ‘presidential’ nod for the 2011 poll. Nor have either been successful in quelling ongoing reports about serious internal wrangling in the ‘alliance’ party.
What seems to unite the combined opposition -- PNCR, AFC, plus the WPA (Working People's Alliance), etc -- is a shared passionate opposition to the PPP again winning state power in 2011 -- although it is known that arrangements continue to be made to ensure customary post-1992 free and fair presidential and parliamentary elections.
Against the backdrop of this electioneering scenario came a very sharp swipe last week by PNCR leader Corbin about a so-called ‘Citizens' Initiative Group (CIG)’ emerging for the 2011 poll.
The fledgling 'Demerara Waves’ Internet radio and podcast programme of August 7 reported Corbin as being quite dismissive of the legitimacy of the CIG in its ambition to mount a credible civil society-based alternative to the established parties for the 2011 poll.
In contrast to the readiness of the AFC to embrace the CIG, whose movers and shakers are still faceless, Corbin has cynically observed that this ‘citizens’ group "has no constituency."
Any serious observer of party politics in Guyana and anyone who is familiar with the structures and identified personalities of what's recognised as ‘civil society’ organisations/groups, should have no difficulties in concurring with Corbin’s view about the CIG.
If, as of now, the opposition parties -- some more paper-based than with any influence of note -- cannot demonstrate a capacity to get their acts together for a common platform for the 2011 poll, what can the so-called ‘citizens' group’ really hope to achieve?
For starters, from what section of the labour movement, established non-government organisations, and the business or religious communities would it garner representative support to influence a meaningful contest against the PPP?
What already exists as ‘the JOPP’ -- Joint Opposition Political Parties -- involving the PNCR and minor parties such as the WPA, Guyana Action Party (GAP), and a National Front Alliance (NFA), continue to struggle for credibility as a combined alternative.
As it is with ‘JOPP’, so it is with the AFC, and now also the Citizens' Initiative Group yet to emerge from the shadows: Nervousness?
Political nervousness, that is, over any media report of a likely pre-election ‘alliance’ or ‘arrangement’ between the PPP/C and the PNCR.
Just follow the hostile, if not panicked, responses to speculative reportings whenever there's a meeting between President Jagdeo and the PNCR's Corbin.
Guyana seems to be heading for much political fun and panic as it moves into the final year for elections 2011.