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After more than three months of the most unusual political drama, newly elected leader of the PNC, Aubrey Norton has been appointed to the National Assembly and has become the Opposition Leader . It has been a long three months that have evidently sapped the political energies of the party and by extension its support base. Someone said some time ago that the party works in mysterious ways. It has turned out to be quite a prophetic statement. Whether the PNC is now able to pick up the pieces and get down to the business of representing the interests of those who have electorally invested in the party is anyone’s guess. History has taught us that the scars of political combat are not healed by a handshake and a prayer.
In many regards, the journey of the PNC since the events of March-August 2020 was inevitable. The circumstances under which the party left office were quite unusual. We say the PNC deliberately. Let’s face it, the AFC , the WPA and the other outfits that were part of the Coalition government were never really in charge and thus not as spiritually invested in the need to hold power as an end in itself. In the wake of what turned out to be more than a minor disaster for the PNC, tempers were bound to flare, fingers were bound to be pointed and blame was bound to be thrown around. In such circumstances, there was bound to be political and other casualties. The party was bound to be shaken.
The problem was that all this took place in an environment of power play by the other big party which sensed its opportunity to monopolize the national political space and did precisely that as its adversary remained locked in post-mortem. The then PNC leader initially refused to budge. He instead proceeded as if nothing fundamental had changed– an approach that led to high tension within the party. It was this misreading that produced the Norton candidacy. Enjoying more support from the base than within the party but with enough anger at the status quo , he romped to victory at the party’s Congress which itself did not happen without a struggle. Consequently, the victory became the occasion for renewed power struggle. Hence the events of the last three months.
The overarching question that must be inevitably asked is this—Is the power-struggle over? What next for the PNC? Clearly, the party’s base would hope for an affirmative answer. When all the speculation and frustration is over, the naked truth is that a PNC in the best of health is essential for the safety of Guyana. The danger of an unchecked PPP government is manifested. With total institutional power at its disposal and a crazy willingness to use all of it all of the time, only the threat of a PNC resolve bot inside and outside of the formal system would force a pause. There is no doubt that Norton and the other factions in the party recognize this truism. The question is whether this is enough to force a quick closing of the ranks.
Some may say that the ball is now in Norton’s court. After all he has got what he and his followers wanted. In fact, in Vola Lawrence’s appointment they got more than they wanted. But is that really true? As every PNC leader since Burnham’s untimely death has found out, the maximum leadership formulae is not a guarantee for control of the party. If Hoyte weathered the storm, the same cannot be said for Corbin and Granger. Norton is shrewd enough to recognize that reality. The trouble is that big mass parties in our Guyanese and Caribbean political culture do not work well without a maximum leader. Therein lies the big challenge for the PNC going forward.
Facing a rampant adversary and under pressure from an angry support base, the party has to find a way to allow Norton to lead it out of its self-imposed prison. The stakes are too high for them to be held hostage by the schisms within the party. Egos would have to be sacrificed for the collective survival and ultimate liberation. The coming months will be crucial. Either the PNC factions swim together or perish together. There is no grey area. After the storm there must come a clearing of the debris—by all.