Guyana’s two major opposition parties appear unable to decide which one of them should supply the nominee to become the new parliamentary speaker. Several rounds of negotiations between them to settle the impasse ended in a stalemate last weekend.
Both parties — the 26-seat Partnership For National Unity (APNU) headed by retired Brig. Gen. David Granger and the seven-seat Alliance For Change, led by attorney Raphael Trotman, demand that their own candidate be elected to run the 65-seat, single chamber parliament. The two have a combined tally of 33 seats, one more than the governing People’s Progressive Party (PPP).
Guyanese who voted in the November 28 general elections helped the country record a new chapter in its political history when they handed the PPP the executive presidency and minority control of the house. The combined opposition control a single-seat majority.
This has never happened since self-governance took effect in 1953 and independence from Britain in 1966.
Once the official results were declared, the APNU and the AFC made some encouraging public pledges to work together to run the parliament, put the brake of runaway drug trafficking, money laundering and corruption that they say are encouraged by the PPP, which controls the speakership and key committees in parliament, including the Public Accounts Committee.
At the new year was being ushered in, it was clear that the APNU was holding out for either of its two candidates, veteran law maker and lawyer Deborah Backer and former vice-president and party chairman Cammie Ramsaroop, himself a former lawmaker and former vice-president.
The AFC is hanging on to former PPP information minister and veteran parliamentarian Moses Nagamootoo as its man for the job, contending that the APNU will get the positions of opposition leader and chief whip and therefore the speakership should go to it despite being the much smaller party.
Granger has made it clear the APNU does not trust Nagamootoo, despite the fact that he switched allegiance to the AFC a few weeks before the elections and helped to take away thousands of PPP votes in Guyana’s southeastern border region with Suriname.
This is so, he argues, because Nagamootoo, a lawyer, was a member of the PPP for 50 years and did not say much about its political and financial excesses, including the formation of a private hit squad that accounted for 200 deaths, its ideology of being in bed with the Guyana narco cartel and its bent of racial discrimination against Afro-Guyanese.
Should the unthinkable occur, with the two failing to agree on a nominee, the PPP would be able to re-elect former speaker Ralph Ramkarran if voting is done along strict party lines, but both have said they are committed to a consensus opposition candidate.
How this will work as the clock ticks towards the first parliamentary session remains unclear.