Coalition to begin review of Cummingsburg Accord this week

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AFC General Secretary David Patterson

…parties agree on core principles to guide way forward
…joint campaign financing, manifesto among issues already settled

THE A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) and the Alliance for Change (AFC) are expected to commence negotiation on the Cummingsburg Accord this week or latest next week, according to APNU General Secretary, Joseph Harmon.

While Harmon did not disclose the critical issues to be discussed around the negotiating table, Guyana Chronicle understands that the issue of a prime ministerial candidate for the upcoming General and Regional Elections, and the formula for the allocation of Parliamentary Seats are among critical issues that would be hammered out by the two teams.

Under the Cummingsburg Accord, which brought the two political parties together as a coalition on February 14, 2015, the APNU nominates the Presidential Candidate and the AFC, the Prime Ministerial Candidate. Added to that, under the accord which also led to them defeating the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) in May 2015, the APNU was allocated 60 per cent of the seats won by the Government in the National Assembly while the AFC received the remaining 40 per cent.

According to a source close to the parties, during this round of negotiation, the teams representing the APNU and AFC will determine whether they will retain the 60:40 formula as the Cummingsburg Accord is revised. This formula would also guide the allocation of ministries between the APNU and the AFC. Under the existing accord, the AFC had requested certain ministries such as the Ministry of Public Security.
Harmon, who is leading APNU at the negotiations, declined to comment on the issues to be discussed. “I cannot clarify because the discussions have not started. We expect that sometime this week or next week, we will commence those discussions, and so I cannot say what is on the table…because we haven’t really started the discussion,” Harmon told Guyana Chronicle.

APNU General Secretary Joseph Harmon

However, he reminded that the APNU and AFC, ahead of the planned negotiation, have agreed on some core principles. “The discussions between the APNU and AFC are imminent but I can’t comment on any issue or aspect of what the discussions will be premised on,” the APNU General Secretary maintained.

In a separate interview on Monday, AFC General Secretary David Patterson said while AFC would like to have sections of the Cummingsburg Accord revised, it would like to retain the 60:40 formula and the current method of appointing the Prime Ministerial Candidate. Patterson is leading the AFC negotiating team which includes its National Executive Members Dominic Gaskin and Dr. Vincent Adams. During this round of negotiation, which is expected to last approximately four weeks, the functionality of the Grievance Committee and other areas within the existing Cummingsburg Accord which need strengthening are expected to be addressed.

“It is likely that they would look at areas of the first accord that didn’t work well, and one area that didn’t work well is that they have set up a committee, a grievance committee, whereby if the parties had problems they can go to this committee and this committee would mediate between the two parties along the way; now that committee didn’t work well during the first time around, and I think that is going to be another issue that they will have to deal with,” the source reasoned.

According to the source, the four-week timeframe set by the APNU and the AFC to hammer out a revised accord is realistic. The source noted that the parties have already laid the foundation by agreeing to core principles that would guide the negotiation.
The core principles, the source said, include the vision of the APNU + AFC Coalition. Those principles also touch on areas of unity, the creation of a joint manifesto, the selection of candidates and the management of shared resources.

Explaining the ‘management of shared resources,’ the source said the parties have agreed to finance their elections campaign as a unified force. “They will put all that money in one place and they will manage it together. So rather than the AFC raising their own resources, and the APNU using their own resources and then spend it as they like, they want a commitment that they will pool their resources together and that there will be shared management of the resources,” he explained.

The Cummingsburg Accord is due to expire on February 14, 2020 but with General and Regional Elections expected this year, the parties have agreed to revise the accord ahead of the elections. Last Monday, the AFC confirmed that there is a broad agreement between the two parties that the existing Accord can be amended for better alignment with the Constitution and can accommodate additional guiding principles that may previously have been omitted.

However, it noted that the existing accord remains in effect, until its life expires or it is amended by mutual agreement. “The AFC remains fully committed to coalition politics in the national interest. Coalition politics in this regard reinforces our core belief of a functional multi-ethnic, ‘multi-viewic’ society to unleash the energies of all our people regardless of race, class, religion or gender enabling all Guyanese to enjoy their fullest potential,” it said. APNU General Secretary, in a recent interview, told Guyana Chronicle the partnership is also committed to the coalition, and as such, would work with the AFC to revise the Cummingsburg Accord ahead of the elections. It was the coming together of the APNU and AFC that resulted in the defeat of the PPP/C Government.