New parties hope to use one seat to force PPP, APNU to work together
By Bibi Khatoon
Having secured one seat in the 65-member National Assembly, three new parties are hoping to use their voice to push for more inclusive governance and challenge the system of winner-take-all politics.
A New and United Guyana (ANUG), The New Movement (TNM) and the Liberty and Justice Party (LJP) gained 5,214 votes in the 2020 general elections, enough to give them a seat.
The three parties had agreed to join their lists ahead of the elections so the total votes they all gain could go towards the allocation of Parliamentary and Regional seats.
Timothy Jonas, Chairman of ANUG, on Monday told the News Room that the parties will be using that one seat to force the People’s Progressive which won the elections with 233,336 votes to work with the APNU+AFC Coalition which garnered 217,920 votes.
Jonas explained that after the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) declares the results from the recount, “we are going to be pressing the PPP once they get into Government…to take measures both in statute and in their day-to-day conduct to include APNU and to include the APNU representatives in the decision-making process.”
Jonas pointed out that based on the votes received by each party, the APNU represents over 40 per cent of the population and those persons must not be shut out of the decision-making process.
“You cannot have a system where in our winner-takes-all the representative of [over] 40 per cent has zero say,” Jonas said.
He added that “this cannot be PPP going forward running the show all by itself as a monarchy and I want to reach out now to the PPP people to say, ‘you talked constitutional reform, you talked inclusivity,’ now is the time for action.”
“…today we have a winner, so we have a triumphant party but we also have an abject and desperate party.
“That is what polarized us and created this mess. So we have to incrementally slowly, with that one seat, propose changes which only we can do, that make the system more inclusive and give the party that is in opposition, a greater say in decision making,” the ANUG Chairman said.
ANUG, LJP and TNM agreed that a member of each party will serve in the National Assembly over the five-year period depending on the percentage of votes earned.
Using this agreement, LJP with 2,657 votes will take the first stint in the house. That position is likely to be filled by the party’s Presidential Candidate Lenox Shuman.
He will be followed by a representative by ANUG which captured 2,313 votes.
The New Movement only garnered 244 votes but Jonas said the party will try to make space for them to be represented in the highest decision-making body.
“We will ensure that The New Movement although they did not get very many votes, have their fair allocation of time for that seat. I wish to say TNM although they are small and didn’t make an impact, they are a group of young and dynamic professionals, they have absolute integrity and absolute faith in our democracy and I really think highly of them,” Jonas said in the interview with the News Room.
Also included in the agreement between the three parties is a commitment that the sitting Member of Parliament will not vote for or against any motion unless all members agree.
ANUG hopes that with the two other parties, it can earn enough seats in the National Assembly to see a minority Government in future elections. This Jonas hopes will allow more pressure on the Government to make the right decisions.
Guyana saw a minority PPP/C Government from 2012 to 2015 where there were two opposition political parties –APNU and the AFC –sharing 33 seats in the National Assembly.
The two opposition parties coalesce to form the Government in 2015 raising concerns that in doing so, the AFC –the smaller party – lost its independent voice.
Jonas said his party will not coalesce with any of the larger parties as they would have learnt from the AFC’s move.
“Easy lessons are good for dunces,” Jonas stated.