…President raps AFC over proposed hasty launch of separate elections campaign
By Svetlana Marshall
CHAIRMAN of the A Partnership for National Unity (APNU), President David Granger did not mince words when he expressed his disappointment in a decision taken by the Alliance For Change (AFC) to launch its elections campaign single-handedly.
The AFC last week announced the launch of its campaign, notwithstanding the fact that it has not concluded negotiations with the APNU – its coalition partner – on revision of the Cummingsburg Accord. It was the Cummingsburg Accord, signed on February 14, 2015, that brought the two sides together ahead of the May 2015 General and Regional Elections, resulting in the defeat of the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C). By launching its campaign on Saturday, November 23, the AFC, would in effect, violate the core principles that were agreed with the APNU ahead of the negotiations. “It is part of the agreement that we should have a joint campaign, so I cannot understand why, in spite of that agreement, there should be an attempt to have separate campaigns; it’s one campaign, it’s one coalition not two coalitions. We are going into one government, not two governments, so I don’t understand who made that suggestion and why it should be made at this stage of the discussion or the negotiation,” President Granger said in response to a question posed by the Guyana Chronicle.
President Granger has long indicated that the procedure agreed upon should be followed before the launch of the elections campaign. Based on the established procedure, APNU and the AFC having agreed on the core principles must agree on a revised Cummingsburg Accord, and subsequently a manifesto, before the coalition’s elections campaign is launched.
The Guyana Chronicle reported back in September that the parties had committed to upholding the Constitution of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana and to ensure that no agreement or action collides with or contradicts articles of the Constitution. This newspaper also understands that as part of the core principles the parties agreed and committed to the establishment of a system of inclusionary democracy and the advancement of the country’s Green State Development Strategy, Vision 2040. They also committed to seeking electoral majorities at the general and regional elections and local government elections and agreed to select candidates for the aforementioned elections through participatory and transparent processes, which guarantee that candidates enjoy the majority of their respective constituencies and satisfy all legal criteria for election.
On the issue of allocation of seats in the National Assembly, Cabinet, Regional Democratic Councils, Municipal and Neighbourhood Democratic Councils, the sides agreed that this would be done on the basis of a formula. The sides agreed too that the prerogative of the President to appoint members of cabinet and ministers and to assign specific ministerial portfolios is explicitly embodied in the Constitution and is inviolable.
Common manifesto, campaign
Meanwhile, other aspects of the core principles include the cultivation of respectful relations and at all times the parties will act collectively in the best interest of the coalition. They also agreed to speak with one voice on issues of public policy, to support a common manifesto and to issue joint media bulletins and releases on electoral matters.
Additionally, the parties agreed to abide by the principle of collective responsibility in respect of decisions emanating from Cabinet and to holding common positions on bills, motions and resolutions in the National Assembly. Each party also pledged to inform the other in advance of its inability at any time to support any measure in the National Assembly.
Other areas covered in the core principles are that of the publishing of a joint manifesto comprising 12 broad fields: constitutional reform, good governance, economic growth and development, education improvement, energy sector, environmental protection, indigenous peoples, infrastructural development, international relations, social protection and social cohesion, security and human safety, women, gender equality and youth.
However, the AFC, in making the announcement, fell short of addressing how its decision conflicts with the established procedure, instead it said it is “battle-ready” for the 2020 elections.
Moving ahead and in total isolation of its coalition partner, the AFC said that some 12 temporary campaign offices will be set up countrywide and its management team and international consultants are working assiduously to meet the objectives.
According to the alliance, its already established 2020 manifesto will be merged with APNU’s. Updating the media on its manifesto, Deputy General-Secretary Leonard Craig, said the party is confident that what it will put forward is valuable to the coalition and the country at large. “From where the AFC sits, we are clear about what our manifesto will contain and we are clear about an elections campaign we want to carry out, but the last stop would be the completion of the Cummingsburg Accord agreement. Once that is completed, then our plans will be dovetailed with that of the APNU and then we move forward from there,” Craig said.
Meanwhile, campaign offices have already been launched at Lusignan, Corriverton and Bath Settlement. In the weeks to come, others will be launched in Onderneeming, Albion and on the East Bank of Demerara (EBD), with several other proposed areas to be decided.
“In all, we plan to open 12 offices throughout the country and in every coastal region. That is part of an AFC programme as part of campaign plans, that the AFC is rolling out,” Craig said.
“I wish to let Guyana know that AFC is battle-ready. We desire a partnership with the APNU, it is the preferred way to go in these elections, but we are battle-ready and with or without our partners we are ready to go,” Craig told reporters.
When the coalition parties contested separately at the 2011 General and Regional Elections, the AFC won seven seats with its greatest support of 11,634 votes coming from Region Six where the APNU came close behind in the Region with 10,798. That year, APNU won 26 seats with the majority of its votes coming from Region Four at 84,828 in which Region the AFC secured only 10,635. Over 340,000 valid votes were cast in 2011 in comparison to over 400,000 votes cast at the 2015 General and Regional Elections. At that election, the APNU+AFC coalition raked in 207,200 votes with the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) close behind at 202,694 votes which gave them a one-seat majority in the National Assembly.