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APNU forces AFC to prove electoral strength ahead of general elections- David Hinds

Professor David Hinds.

Political Science Professor, David Hinds on Tuesday said A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) appeared to have forced the Alliance For Change (AFC) to prove its electoral strength on the ground after reportedly demanding a 40-percent allocation of candidates for the Local Government Elections.

“In effect, the APNU got what it wanted—it forced the AFC to go out and prove its electoral worth in circumstances that are not favorable to the latter,” said Hinds, whose Working People’s Alliance (WPA) political party is a member of APNU.

He believed that now that the AFC has opted to contest the local polls alone, that could determine their bargaining power with APNU for the 2020 general elections. “How well the AFC does will tell us what bargaining power it will have when the Cumminigsburg Accord comes up for renewal before the next election. I think the voter turnout among those who voted for the Coalition in 2015 will be very low and this would hurt the AFC chances of doing well.

Those who bother to vote will most likely vote for the APNU which has the machinery to bring out some voters. So, my sense is that the AFC would come out of this much weaker than was in 2015. But as the say, in political behavior is unpredictable. I may be proven wrong,” he said.

With the AFC facing the prospect of proving  whether its electoral strength “is intact or it has vanished” for the first time since 2011, the United States-based Political Science Professor suggested that would be an uphill task especially with an expected low voter turnout. Compounding difficulties for the AFC, he said, would be expected resistance by the opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) in its strongholds which could see the AFC going after APNU’s votes.

“My sense is that the PPP would make it extremely difficult for the AFC to even campaign in the Indian Guyanese communities. This would leave the party with having to compete with the APNU for African Guyanese votes. The optics of the latter scenario will be interesting to watch—two coalition partners fighting each other for votes,” he said

Hinds also criticised APNU for not doing more to ensure the coalition remained intact with AFC because, despite assurances that the coalition remains intact for the 2020 general elections, the break-up for the local government elections does not send a good signal. “Despite the positive rhetoric, the entrenched culture of party hegemony, particularly from the big partner continues to trump the letter and spirit of coalition building. Coalition-building requires enlightened leadership, constant meaningful consultation, mutual respect among partners, democratic decision-making and the willingness of the big partner to concede ground in the interest of the collective. I think the coalition has come up short in that regard,” said Hinds.

Faced with the prospects of not contesting the November 12 general elections at all and signaling an “admission of defeat”, he said the AFC decided instead to go the polls separately. That party has since said it would contest in some neighbourhood and town councils.

He reasoned that unlike the run-up to the 2015 general elections when the AFC used the fact that it had clinched seven seats in 2011 to bargain hard in the Cummingsburg Accord, this time around that party was heading into the Local Government Elections with the combined APNU+AFC general election results in 2015.

Hinds chided the AFC for demanding 40 percent of the seat allocation if it really wanted to contest as a coalition because that gave APNU an opportunity to accuse its smaller partner of being unreasonable despite efforts at accommodation. Part of the AFC’s failing, he believed, was that party’s inability to prove that it had held together its support among Indo-Guyanese.

“Perhaps a 20 percent request would have swayed the APNU. But 40 percent demand was dead on arrival simply because the AFC could not demonstrate that it has that amount of electoral support, particularly in the Indian Guyanese community. Had the AFC from 2015 onwards cultivated and consolidated its Indian Guyanese support base it would have been in a stronger position to make the demands it sought,” Hinds added.

Well-placed AFC sources have told Demerara Waves Online News that APNU had refused to give into AFC’s demand for a 40 percent stake on all neighbourhood and town councils, but was told that the 60-40 formula applied only to general elections. APNU had, according to the sources, wanted all of the candidates to campaign jointly and one day before Nomination Day to decide who the candidates should have been.

The AFC sources said their party could not have agreed to such conditions and preferred to contest the local polls separately in selected areas.

The PPP has since called the AFC’s decision a clumsy move aimed at moving into the PPP areas under the guise of being an independent party.