The Alliance For Change (AFC) appeared to have signaled that it would possibly be contesting this year’s Local Government Elections (LGE) on its own to flex its negotiating muscle for a new or revised political agreement with A Partnership for National Unity (APNU), Political Science Professor, Henry Jeffrey said.
“It might well be it’s only positioning itself to strengthen its position in those negotiations,” he told Demerara Waves Online News.
While the AFC several months ago named its negotiating team, it is yet to formally inform APNU in an effort to commence negotiations on amending the Valentine’s Day 2015 pact called the Cummingsburg Accord or crafting a new agreement. That agreement was only for the May 2015 general elections.
High-level sources told Demerara Waves Online News on Tuesday that that People’s National Congress-Reform (PNCR)-dominated APNU would not be opposed to contesting the LGE, due during the last quarter of this year, with AFC but would be prepared to do so alone. That assurance, the sources said, has assuaged some concerns that the PNCR might have been planning to break away altogether from the four other constituent parties to vie for seats in the village and municipal councils. Those other smaller parties are the Working People’s Alliance, Justice For All Party, Guyana Action Party and the National Front Alliance.
Jeffrey observed that the AFC has been coming under pressure from its members who believe that their party has been hijacked by the PNCR. The former government minister in the People’s Progressive Party Civic administration said some AFC members might believe that their survival does not necessarily rest with being in government.
Against that background the former Senior Lecturer in Political Science at the University of Guyana said the AFC executive seemed poised to portray itself as not being too eager to coalesce with APNU again and would do so only under certain conditions.
“I think they are positioning themselves mainly at this stage to negotiate and they want a strong handle when they are going in; they want to say ‘we are going in and our members don’t really want to stay with you but we want something or some promises out of any negotiation we go into with you’,” he said.
Himself a former PNC supporter in the 1980s, Dr. Jeffrey further reasoned that the PNCR would not be keen on contesting the LGE on its own, given its less than optimal performance at the 1994 local polls.
Alluding to AFC Leader, Raphael Trotman’s pronouncement that one of the major concerns by his party was that it needed to preserve its identity, Jeffrey said that goes to the core of concerns by that party’s supporters who believed that its promises have not been reflected in government’s policies and programmes and so it should be more aggressive and vote in keeping with its platform.
“They are not just saying that they have lost their identity because that can be just a theoretical position; they are saying that ‘you are not doing the things that you are supposed to do’. They are actually saying to the AFC ‘you have lost a programmatic platform, you don’t have one; they are saying you are no longer what you stood for, you are not doing the things you stood for’,” he said. Among them, he said, are protecting the rights of sugar workers, reforming Guyana’s constitution and making the PNCR accountable.
During consideration of 2018 budgetary estimates, the AFC had issued a statement calling for several benefits to be provided to sugar workers. AFC member, Noel Holder, is the Minister of Agriculture.
Dr. Jeffrey said the AFC could publicly demand that government implement a number of its electoral promises and hold inter-party talks even at the risk of the coalition appearing to be unstable.
He said part of the problem is that leaders of the coalition political parties are in government and could not put external pressure on the administration.