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Guyana prepares for minority government as a way of life

Parliament Building

The Guyana government and the governing People’s Progressive Party (PPP) appear to be increasingly talking about the need for a national alliance in the face of probably another minority government, and at least one opposition party says the time is ripe for power sharing.

“Indeed, minority government may very well become a feature in Guyana of government as it is elsewhere,” Cabinet Secretary, Dr. Roger Luncheon said in pointing to experiences in other parts of the world where minority governments exist. He noted that remnants of the 1980 Constitution under then President Forbes Burnham provide for a situation that “you could lose but you could still win” without even realizing that it would have happened in 2011 when the Peoples National Congress (PNC) would have been out of office.

Asked whether a minority government should work to the exclusion of the significant opposition or what mechanisms could be put in place to include them much more in the governance of the country, he said that question remained unanswered but would attract international attention and assistance.

He declined to discuss whether the People’s PPP-C would be willing to share power with the opposition if that party loses more seats at the next election, saying that was a matter for the party rather than the government to address.

Both the government and the opposition have been frustrated by either the passage or non-passage of key pieces of legislation and budgetary allocations for key projects and programmes since the opposition gained control of the 65-seat House for the first time at the November 2011 general and regional elections.

For its part, the Alliance For Change (AFC) on Wednesday forecast that no party would secure a parliamentary majority at the next general elections expected by January 2015 on account of a yet to be debated no-confidence motion in the House. “There are three horses running in this race and I believe that indeed each one has the probability of getting a plurality,” AFC Leader, Khemraj Ramjattan told Demerara Waves Online News.  He added that the PPPC and APNU would largely attract votes from the East Indo and Afro-Guyanese segments of the population while his party would draw votes from all races.

Against the background of the PPP advocating stridently the need for a National Alliance to run the country, Ramjattan was lukewarm to those suggestions from Freedom House.  He said the PPP’s call for a national alliance was aimed at mobilizing its supporters so that the party would secure its parliamentary majority that it lost by one seat at the 2011 general and regional elections.

Taking the PPPC’s desire for a national alliance at face-value, he suggested that the incumbent party was merely laying the groundwork for power sharing because it has forecast securing the presidency with fewer seats. “I am absolutely certain that commonsense will tell them that in view of what happened in the 10th parliament that they will have to talk to both parties in terms of forming a national government,” he said. A well-placed source has said that if the PPPC loses four seats it would be barely clinging to the presidency.

 Ramjattan promised that if his party or wins a plurality; the PPPC and APNU would be invited to be part of the government in which there will be a strict parliamentary oversight system of accountability. “We don’t want a huge behemoth that is then going to take the country probably in a wrong direction and then make all the mistakes and so instead of the PPP making the mistakes we have a combination,” he said. Likewise, he expected A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) to welcome the AFC into government.

Ramjattan also wants a national unity government to implement a 10-point consensual demand probably within the first one or two years. The plan, he said, should include the holding of local government elections, establishment of the constitutionally required Public Procurement Commission, review of taxation policy, reviewing and implementing the National Development Strategy, revamping the Broadcast Authority, and ensuring a safer and more secure society.