APNU floats 70:30 ratio for House seats

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APNU Leader, President David Granger

…proposes President Granger lead list this time around
…no agreement on allocation of ministries to AFC

By Svetlana Marshall

NEGOTIATIONS between the A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) and Alliance for Change (AFC) for the revision of the Cummingsburg Accord is expected to focus on the formula that would be used to guide the allocation of ministries and seats in the National Assembly.

According to reliable sources, during the high-level meeting between President David Granger and the Leader of the Alliance for Change (AFC) last Thursday at State House, the two sides agreed that the AFC would nominate the Prime Ministerial Candidate, in accordance with the existing Cummingsburg Accord. This week, it is expected that the negotiating teams will hammer out a formula for the allocation of seats in the National Assembly, and at the level of the Regional Democratic Councils.

Under the old Cummingsburg Accord, which brought the two political parties together as a coalition on February 14, 2015, the APNU was allocated 60 per cent of the seats won by the Government in the National Assembly, while the remaining 40percentwent to the AFC. “Both sides have shifted their starting ratio from 60:40, but no agreement,” the source said.

It was the AFC that had proposed that the 60:40 ratio be maintained, but this was reportedly rejected by the APNU during the talks. After numerous rounds of negotiation, the 70:30 ratio is now on the table, but the sides have not yet agreed on a formula.
“It’s based on the perceived and real reduced electoral strength. I think it’s a reasonable argument. My sense is that the AFC acknowledges this, and would settle for a reduced portion of seats,” the source reasoned.

Added to that, there is no agreement on allocation of certain ministries to AFC beforehand. APNU and AFC have not agreed on who will lead the list. These are among other issues that would be hammered out over the next couple of days.

On Saturday last, AFC held its National Executive Committee (NEC), and endorsed a report and decisions taken by its coalition negotiating team led by its General Secretary David Patterson. Patterson said the NEC provided guidance to assist the negotiating team in finalising agreement on the remaining outstanding items. AFC is hoping to sign off on the revised Cummingsburg Accord by November 10, 2019.

Ahead of the negotiation, the APNU and AFC had committed to upholding the Constitution of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana, and to ensuring that no agreement or action collides with, or contradicts, the articles of the Constitution.

In the existing accord, the parties 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.

The two sides had also agreed to a number of core principles, 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.

While the allocation of seats in the National Assembly, Cabinet, Regional Democratic Councils, Municipal and Neighbourhood Democratic Councils would be based on an agreed formula, the two sides have agreed 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.

CORE PRINCIPLES
Meanwhile, other aspects of the core principles include the cultivation of respectful relations, and that 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 have 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. The parties agreed to jointly finance their elections campaign, and also to campaign vigorously either on their own or collectively in each contested constituency.