Letter: Aubrey Norton lacks a vital tool to keep his MPs in line!

The content originally appeared on: INews Guyana
Opposition Leader Aubrey Norton

Dear Editor,

Judging by the holding of party congress and other indicators, the two major political parties, PPPC and PNCR, have already begun to walk on the 2025 national and regional elections’ campaign trail, although neither political party has issued a formal announcement to this effect.

The major opposition political party, PNCR, and the smaller AFC, have internal problems that threaten their viability; and if these are not quickly settled, not much thought would be given to other pressing matters, such as the awkward situation in ROPA (Representation of the People Act) regarding the Representative of the Candidate’s List (List).

Unlike Dr Bharrat Jagdeo, who is the Representative of the PPPC List, with Dr Irfaan Ali as his deputy, and who can nominate or remove an MP, the current Parliamentary Opposition Leader, Mr. Aubrey Norton, has no such authority to remove or appoint any member from his party’s List as an MP. This authority resides with an individual named Mr. David Granger, who is the Representative of the APNU/AFC List, with his Deputy being Mr. Khemraj Ramrattan.

If, however, the Representative and the Deputy of a List become incapacitated for whatever reason, a majority of members on that List could designate a person to act as Representative of the List, and submit his/her name to GECOM for approval. Well, this is the theory: at a practical level, this is not likely to happen in respect of the APNU/AFC List in this election cycle. Why? Neither Mr Granger as representative of the list nor Mr Ramjattan as deputy has shown any inclination to surrender their respective positions vis-a-vis the List for the remainder of this election cycle. Therefore, the majority of candidates on the List could not be given the opportunity to designate a Representative. Mr. Granger still has control over who gets nominated or removed as Opposition MPs.

Mr Ramjattan would not give up that position because he needs to protect the tenure of the nine AFC MPs. Critics have pointed out that the 2020 polls would have given AFC about the equivalent of one seat (N=7,082). It would be recalled that the AFC did well in the 2011 polls. However, at the 2020 polls, their electoral support collapsed.

The nine AFC Parliamentary seats that they were allocated in 2020 would translate to about 63,738 votes. Even in their best election year in 2011 (for which data is available), their estimated voting strength was about 35,000.

Critics have postulated that AFC did better in 2015, compared with 2011, and anecdotal evidence in Regions 2, 5, and 6 seems to support this postulation. However, in 2020 it was a different story: the AFC’s electoral strength almost evaporated!

Supporters of the revised Cummingsburg Accord would argue that the allocation of seats to AFC had more to do with this agreement between PNCR and AFC, and which was influenced largely by the AFC’s past polling strength in 2011. Notwithstanding, the reality is that 8 PNCR candidates on the 2020 List were deprived of a seat in Parliament because they had to give way to the AFC candidates.

While the Representation of the People (Amendment) Act 2022 plugged most of the loopholes in the electoral system consequent to the 2020 election fiasco, there exists – as stated earlier – an anomaly (lack of a succession process) regarding the Representative and Deputy of the List. It is therefore suggested that if the named Representative of the List and the Deputy are incapacitated for whatever reason, two alternates could be identified to fulfill that role, and have their names submitted to GECOM for approval. Or the new leadership of any political party should be given the opportunity to identify their own Representative and Deputy, with provision for at least two alternates.

One of the most powerful tools to hold MPs along party lines is not available to Mr Norton, while this tool is available to the PPPC Leader Dr Bharrat Jagdeo.

Sincerely,Dr Tara Singh