by Stella Ramsaroop
(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 30 May 2007)
I suppose many people have wondered if Jagdeo intends to really relinquish his title as President of Guyana at the end of his current term even though this is constitutionally suppose to be his last.
The cockeyed way in which his government operates at times opens the door wide for speculation as to whether he would be able to finagle another term. The possibility of another term has much to do with whether the opposition would rigorously oppose such an action.
The main opposition party, the PNC, could call into question the legality of any president attempting to serve more terms than the Constitution allows and thereby challenge the credibility of the government. Hence, Jagdeo would need to offer the PNC leader, Robert Corbin, a very sweet deal if he does indeed wish to extend his stay at the presidential office.
Realistically speaking, the PNC simply does not have a chance of winning an election so long as the nation continues to vote along racial lines and the PPP constituents hold the majority vote. As such, it just might be that Corbin would be open to exploring any sweet deals His Excellency might throw his way.
However, I would like to suggest that before the PNC leader accepts trivial positions of little consequence as an inducement for the few necessary votes needed to change the Constitution, perhaps it would serve PNC members better to demand something far sweeter in exchange – if this situation were to arise.
For example, just a year before the last presidential election the PNC started to raise a ruckus about the need for election reform. In my opinion, this was all for show because if they had been at all serious, they would have demanded the reform from the first day of the last term instead of waiting until the last minute when nothing could have been done in time for the elections.
But if the PNC wants to prove the genuine nature of their demand for election reform, they should begin their crusade from now. In fact, if by some small chance the President does approach the PNC leader with a desire to run again next term, this would be the perfect opportunity to demand election reform in exchange.
What would the PNC do with trivial positions – even if those positions included some trivial money – when at the end of the whole ordeal the party and its members are no better off than they are today?
The one and only change that will make a difference for any of the opposition parties is election reform. I use to hold out my hope that the people of Guyana would see how futile it is to vote along racial lines because they will only continue to get stuck with the same do-nothings that continue to do nothing. I am no longer so optimistic.
At the same time, it is getting really old watching the PNC cry foul over and over while it does nothing to change the current system. If Corbin (or his soon to be predecessor) truly wants to see a better situation for PNC party members, this would be the perfect opportunity to do something good for the people – that is, if Jagdeo presents such an opportunity.
After all, how many times does the opposition party in Guyana get to be in the driver’s seat, if even for just a brief time? If Jagdeo does indeed intend on running for another term, he knows he cannot afford to have his credibility challenged by the main opposition party in front of the international community.
Right now, there is a movement to put a stop to parliament members who defect to other parties and still retain the seats held by their previous parties. It seems to me that all of the energy being wasted on this effort would be better channelled into reforming the election process. If a new governing system were adopted within the election reform, then it might solve the problem of chair stealing parliament members as well.
If the election process was changed to allow the people to vote for a particular representative in their respective regions, then it would not matter if that representative switches parties because he/she would be legally elected by the people and not given the position by the party.
Of course, the proposed legislation in question allows the PPP and the PNC to tighten their grip on their current members of parliament, so one might think the PNC would be opposed to such a reform in the election process. But like I said before, election reform is the only chance the PNC has of ever winning an election – well, at least until all the PPP supporters migrate to other shores.
I have my doubts as to whether the PNC was ever serious about election reform or if they just use it as a place to lay blame when they lose an election. Sometimes it seems as if Corbin is actually content with things the way they are right now because any protest rising from the opposition is usually nothing more than smoke and mirrors.
However, should some new leadership come into power in the near future, perhaps they will be less willing to lie down and die so easily. Then if that day comes when Jagdeo is looking to present them with a sweet deal – maybe, just maybe - they will think election reform is the sweetest deal of all.