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Each member of the US Congress has a chief of staff and about half a dozen other employees to help with congressional and constituency work. The US institutional knowledge of what is taking place in Guyana is enormous and on top of this there are many non-governmental and lobbyist organisations from which congresspersons can acquire information about a subject they wish to address. These people also have strong constituency organisations, an objective media environment and other civil society organisations to hold them accountable. It is, therefore, most unlikely that Congressman Hakeem Jeffries and his colleagues would have commented negatively on what has been taking place in Guyana since the PPP/C took government in 2020 without having first adequately informing themselves.
At the root of all the problems are efforts by the PPP to entrench itself in government and its reaction to the opposition’s contention that it manipulated the 2020 elections. Where the latter is concerned, notwithstanding its propaganda and legal and other maneuvers, the PPP has been unable to overcome the claim that the 2020 elections were replete with illegalities that were unearthed during the 2020 recount process and should have been taken into account before the elections were determined in favour of the PPP/C. One claim is that thousands of persons, many of them residing the USA and not present in Guyana on elections day, are recorded as having voted. This is not a new claim: a 2020 study ‘The Guyanese Diaspora’ by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), commented, ‘Although Guyanese citizens who are still registered to vote can fly back to Guyana to vote in national elections, … worries about potential misuse of this right by both of the leading political parties make serious consideration of a concrete system for overseas voting unlikely at this moment.’ I doubt that it would take much effort for congresspersons to determine the general veracity of this claim.
The truth is that this matter has not as yet been thoroughly dealt with and while the PPP and its supporters might find comfort in the claim that the coalition has done the same in the past and attempted to manipulate the 2020 elections, this type of tit-for-tat behaviour cannot gain traction in democratic circles. A democratic environment does not exist where behaviour that diminishes the value of the vote and institutionalizes forms of autocracies are prevalent. Similarly, the PPP cannot successfully defend their discrimination by arguing that the other side did the same, without clearly outlining the need for and scope of remedial action. When a minority ethnic party is involved in such practices that negatively affect other ethnic groups the situation is compounded and becomes even more unacceptable.
If Guyana is to make the most of its resources, the most pressing present issue is for it to find a political solution to its decades old ethnic/political quarrel. It is good, therefore, that US congresspersons are taking a more hands-on approach to what is happening in Guyana. Perhaps, as occurred in Northern Ireland, their interventions could lead to an amicable solution. It is not that the PPP has no constitutional alternatives through which to adequately protect the interests of its largely ethnic constituency, but rather than recognising that its present status as a minority ethnic group requires it to share government, it is still hell bent upon political dominance.
At this historic juncture, the answer lies in a sensible form of coalition government and so I need to dismiss the largely opportunistic contention that coalition governments do not work. Coalitions are rare in Great Britain – the 2010 coalition between the Conservative and Liberal Democratic parties being the first in the entire post Second World War period – and given Guyana’s Westminster tradition this view is easily accommodated.
However, coalition governments are not uncommon and have been prevalent in some of the most prosperous countries in the world. Between 1945 and about 2000, most European countries had some form of coalition government. Coalitions account for 69% (238) of some 343 cases analysed in one study. It has been the only form of government in Luxembourg and Netherlands. In the same period ‘single party’ governments were only 15% of governments in Germany, 11% in Finland, 15% in Belgium, 23% in Austria, 26% in France, 29% in Italy and 45% in Denmark (Muller Wolfgang & Kaare Strom (2000) Coalition Governments in Western Europe. Oxford University Press). Since 1959, Switzerland has been ruled by a coalition consisting of the four largest parliamentary parties. Suriname has not had any other form of government since the 1980s, and even in Guyana the two real coalition experiences – the PNC/UF and the APNU/AFC – were established for the purpose of and succeeded in winning government and lasting their full term.
Guyana’s colonial rulers and Forbes Burnham’s PNC could find a level of moral shelter for their elections manipulations by claiming that they were on the side of the liberal democratic order in the struggle against those who intended to destroy it. The PPP’s dilemma is that it has no moral shelter whatsoever: the little it had as a majority party has eroded and maybe that is the reason its propaganda is so rampant and that it so badly needs the APNU+AFC coalition to baptize it as legitimate!