‘Revision then personalities’

President David Granger

…President says issues of PM candidate for coalition will come after revision of accord
…hopeful of early conclusion, says process progressing smoothly

THE A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) and the Alliance for Change (AFC) will launch their joint manifesto and elections campaign after completing the review of the 2015 Cummingsburg Accord, President David Granger said on Wednesday. And the President said the issue of a prime ministerial candidate will come after the conclusion of the revision.
Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of an accreditation ceremony at the Ministry of the Presidency, the Head of State and Leader of the APNU said that while the APNU had concluded its internal negotiations, discussions were still on-going with the AFC.
“Those discussions will follow a three-stage process. We have first drafted a set of core principles and we have agreed on those principles, that is, APNU+AFC. We are now discussing the review of the Cummingsburg Accord, and the third step in the process would be the drafting of a joint manifesto and then we will launch the campaign,” President Granger explained.

With the core principles agreed upon several weeks ago, it is anticipated that the APNU and the AFC will soon arrive at a consensus with respect to a revised Cummingsburg Accord. “My expectation is that during the course of this month, we will move further along to reaching a solution to any other difficulty we may have but right now the discussions are going on, pretty smoothly,” President Granger said.

The revised accord will detail the method of selecting the Prime Ministerial Candidate. Under the 2015 Cummingsburg Accord, which brought the two political parties together as a coalition on February 14, 2015 ahead of the elections, the APNU nominates the Presidential Candidate and the AFC, the Prime Ministerial Candidate. Added to that, 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. As such, it is therefore expected that the revised accord will also treat with the allocation of seats in the National Assembly, and the appointment of ministers among other critical matters.

“We expect that in the course of the discussions with the Alliance for Change, we will look at personalities. Right now we are just dealing with policies and principles…Our main concern has been the agreement on the core principles and now, the manifesto will deal with the policies, so we have not come down to personalities,” President Granger said.
The AFC has submitted its Leader, Khemraj Ramjattan, for the position of Prime Ministerial Candidate in keeping with the 2015 Cummingsburg Accord but the President has indicated that no decision has been taken on the proposal. He iterated that the coalition partners must first complete the revision of the accord before treating with “personalities.”

Thus far, the two sides have agreed that the accord must be in accordance with the Constitution. In the previous accord, the parties had agreed that Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo would chair cabinet, but later this proved problematic as according to the Constitution, cabinet must be chaired by the President unless he is out of the jurisdiction or unable to perform the function. There have been suggestions that the President could delegate this responsibility even if he is in the country.

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 upcoming 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.

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. The parties agreed to jointly finance their elections campaign and also to campaign vigorously either on their own or collectively in each contested constituency.

Discussions with the AFC on the Cummingsburg Accord were initiated after the APNU completed its internal negotiations, President Granger said. According to the Leader of the APNU, the members of the five-party partnership – People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR), the Working People’s Alliance (WPA), the Justice for All Party, National Front Alliance (NFA), and Guyana Action Party (GAP) – proposed modification to their internal agreement.

“GAP, which has a strong indigenous support, has made a change; WPA, as you know, is supportive of the cash grant; and the PNC, the NFA, and Justice for All Party have all made contributions,” President Granger disclosed.

He said there was a high degree of consensus among the parties at the end of the negotiation process.