A national front government

Stabroek News
June 10, 1999

As the Constitutional Reform Commission holds its internal discussions prior to writing its report many useful ideas are being exchanged. One of them, raised by a senior political figure who is not a member of the two main parties, is that the PPP should be given back the two extra years of its five year term on condition that it forms a government of national unity for that period.

The idea has a great deal to recommend it. First, it would relieve the threat of severe ethnic conflict that has been hovering over the country for some time. Secondly, it would help to reduce the hostility that now exists between the leadership of the two main parties by enabling them to work together in government. Thirdly, if the national government can be formed on the basis of an agreed economic programme, and the National Development Strategy now being finalised could fit in very well here, there is a real chance that some useful projects could be started in that period of working together, free from the numbing pressure that has existed for some time.

Whatever the objections that may be raised to long term power sharing arrangements they do not apply to a short term two year coalition government designed to rescue the country from turmoil and stagnation. It is an expedient for which there is precedent in other countries. And if that works well it can create its own dynamics for political and constitutional change.

Proponents of power sharing in Guyana argue that even though the possible setbacks of power sharing arrangements are well known (slow decision making and possible gridlock, the development of elitist politics where deals are made between leaders, the lack of a formal opposition in parliament) the situation in Guyana is now so desperate that another system should be tried. The argument should not be lightly discarded. For over 40 years ethnic conflict has hung over our politics like the sword of Damocles. Ethnic voting patterns are now firmly established and electoral campaigns are increaingly unpleasant and have become little more than ethnic censuses. The prospect of another divisive election next year is enough to depress anyone and could easily lead to a further economic slowdown and accelerated emigration.

A transitional national front government gets the best of both worlds. It introduces power sharing in the interest of stimulating recovery and avoiding ethnic conflict, for a limited period. It also leaves the door open for further change. If it is successful, in January 2003 a less fragile and less divided and possibly more prosperous nation could face the polls. The proposal is worth the most serious consideration.

A page from:
Guyana: Land of Six Peoples