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Opposition parties formally agree to negotiate pro-democracy alliance; welcome election date

Less than one hour after news broke that President Donald Ramotar announced that Monday, May 11, 2015 will be Election Day, Guyana’s two major political parties not only declared that they were ready for balloting but that they have made signficant headway for negotiations for a pre-electoral alliance.

A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) and the Alliance For Change (AFC) said that they were making progress on talks toward the formation of a pro-democracy alliance.

APNU Chairman, David Granger and AFC General Secretary, David Patterson told Caribbean News Desk on Tuesday that the parties have selected negotiation teams which are to have their first meeting at a date already set.

Patterson, who will lead the AFC’s team, further shared that the APNU has agreed to its non-disclosure agreement and that the proposal for a pro-democracy alliance has been handed over. He said that the APNU had insisted that both sides be bound by the non-disclosure agreement, and that this has been agreed to.

Granger is also optimistic about the prospects of an alliance. We “are deliberately entering into talks with AFC with the hope that there is some pre-election agreement. The important thing is that we remove the PPP (People’s Progressive Party) from office,” Granger remarked.

The AFC’s Leader, Khemraj Ramjattan late last year touted the pro-democracy alliance as a grouping of political parties, civil society organisations and individuals with integrity that his party would like to lead to contest the elections—a  major departure from its long-held view that any arrangement with APNU, whose major constituent is the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR)- would be politically suicidal. The AFC has seen itself as being attractive mainly to East Indians who have been traditionally supporters of the incumbent PPPC.

Constitutionally, elections would have been required again next year but early elections became imminent after Ramotar announced late last year his intention to dissolve parliament and call general and regional elections. This announcement came after his proroguing of parliament on November 10th2014 in an effort to stave off the moving and passing of a no-confidence motion against the Peoples Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C) government by the opposition parties in parliament.

Reacting to the announcement, Leader of A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) and Opposition Leader David Granger said “we have been preparing and partners have been informed. We look forward to a clean campaign and hope that it is not marred by an abuse of state resources by the PPPC to attain an unfair advantage.” Granger also says he hopes these elections will not be marred by “vile propaganda.”

 APNU is yet to determine its Presidential and Prime Ministerial candidates and Granger says such decision will be made during a meeting next Wednesday.

The AFC is also pleased with the announcement of the date and during an interview with Caribbean News Desk its General Secretary (GS), David Patterson, says the announcement is welcomed “after three months of (parliamentary) paralysis.”

In his address the president said “in light of the opposition’s sustained refusal to engage my Government in the dialogue we anticipated and in light of the commitment I made to you, the people of Guyana, I now move toward general elections. In the circumstances, I hereby announce that General Elections shall be held on Monday, 11th May, 2015.”

Meanwhile, the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) is gearing up to set its machinery in motion. Commenting on whether May 11this practical for the holding of general and regional elections the official said “it is not a matter of whether GECOM is ready, GECOM already has a framework with activities what will have to be executed.”

 What is needed now, he said, is for the various activities to be assigned dates on/by which they are to be done. 

The final voters’ list is expected to contain close to 500,000 voters eligible to cast ballots at the 2,260 polling stations across this 83,000 square mile country.

The President said that he has invited international observers to monitor the poll, widely expected to be hotly contested by the PPPC in its quest to regain its parliamentary majority that it lost at the November 2011 election, and the opposition which hopes to at least become the minority government.

Secretary General of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), Ernesto Samper, shortly after holding talks with the Guyanese leader, said that a request has been made for the 12-member continental organisation to dispatch a team of observers. 

The Caribbean Community (Caricom), Commonwealth and the Organisation of American States (OAS) are also expected to be invited to field observer missions.