GUYANA is an ethnically plural society which has had its fair share of conflict since self-rule was introduced in the 1950s. Over the decades, scholars, activists and politicians have debated and discussed the best governance mechanism that is needed to accommodate the country’s diverse demographics.
Unfortunately, the politicians were not able to activate any meaningful inclusive governance as enshrined in the constitution until the advent of the APNU+AFC coalition in 2015. The origins of that coalition lay in the formation of the APNU in 2011 which brought together five political parties under one banner.
The coalition, while not a full-fledged Government of National Unity, represents a big step in the direction of inclusive governance–It is a departure from the governments of the past. Never before have so many parties participated in one government. While we can debate the intra-coalition dynamics, what cannot be contested is the plurality of the government. In other words, the coalition government looks more like Guyana than that of its predecessor. This is a significant development that cannot be overstated; it is an intangible that has led to tangible outcomes.
The coalition arose out of the need to bring government in line with the country’s diversity. But it also responded to the growing desire among the people for an end to the ethno-political gridlock that has plagued our country for decades. In fact, one can conclude that the coalition’s victory at the polls represented a triumph of inclusivity over one-party rule. The coalition, therefore, has popular endorsement, which in turn gives it a high degree of legitimacy.
President Granger was on target when in a recent speech at a Linden rally, he observed the following: “Now my brothers and sisters, we are in government again. Eight years ago, we founded APNU and four years ago, we went into an alliance to form a coalition with the AFC. This is the first time in the history of Guyana that a six-party coalition has formed the government. We formed it because that is what the people wanted. They don’t want to see winner takes all. They don’t want to see one-party government. They got what they asked for. Look at our record… We deserve another five years to conduct, to carry on the work we have started…give us a chance.”
The President was pointing to what is perhaps the most significant macro-achievement of the coalition. The emergence of the coalition has changed the face of Guyanese politics for the better. Hence, it is an experiment that is worth persisting with. What is significant is that despite some hiccups, the coalition has survived. Coalitions by their very nature are complex and more difficult to manage than one-party governments.
Each party brings to the collective its peculiar ideological outlook and policy initiatives. And in the case of the APNU+AFC, the fact that the parties have varied electoral strengths makes its management more challenging. President Granger must be commended for his management of the coalition. He has to simultaneously manage the APNU and the coalition government.
But despite these challenges the coalition has worked very well. The level of consensus on most matters rivals that of any one-party government. The unity in diversity is an example for governments across the CARICOM sub-region. Of course, there are those who would argue otherwise, but the evidence is there to show. Not only has the coalition survived, but its members have all agreed to continue the political marriage.
The days of one-party government in Guyana are fast becoming a thing of the past. One does not have to look very far back into to our history to highlight the disadvantages of that form of government. From wanton maximum leadership to ethno-dominance, one-party governance opens the door to a level of political depravity that we can ill-afford to take into the future. There are little or no checks and balances in a one-party government as everyone toes the proverbial party line. Such governments shut out rather than include.
In the case of the PPP, given its proven adherence to hyper-ethnicity as ideology, it presents a clear and present danger to the country’s well-being. Guyana cannot afford another round of the “troubles” that was a direct outcome of the PPP’s embrace of ethnic domination and criminalisation of the state.
The coalition has done a great deal to correct the deformities that were left in the wake of that one-party adventure; we cannot afford to expose our children and young people to a repeat of those days.
It is against that background that we urge Guyanese to endorse the coalition option as the more advanced form of governance. It is an insurance against one-man rule, ethnic dominance, authoritarianism and corruption; but above all, it brings to the table a plurality of ideas and options for development—the opposite of bland uniformity. And in the final analysis, it represents the better face of Guyana.