It is heartening that President Granger and his government have immediately accepted the outcome of the vote and have committed to complying with the constitutional stipulations. This bodes well for the country. Both APNU+AFC and the PPP/C must immediately engage in outreaches to their constituencies and explain what has transpired, reiterate the need for calm and begin engaging their supporters on the way forward.         

Constitutional governance must be strictly adhered to. The provisions pertaining to a successful vote of no confidence against the government require that general elections be held within 90 days.
In the heat of the moment at Friday’s unexpected vote, threats and expletives  were uttered in the National Assembly. One APNU+AFC MP, Jermaine Figueira was audibly heard using expletives to Mr Persaud. Mr Figueira and any others guilty of such behaviour  must be brought to book by the Privileges Committee of Parliament. It would also be a propitious moment for APNU+AFC to begin disciplining its Members of Parliament and executives for egregious behaviour. In passing it must be noted that neither APNU nor its main component, the PNCR sought to discipline Volda Lawrence, the APNU+AFC MP, Minister of Public Health and Chairman of PNCR for her sickening remarks at a Region Four District Conference in November.
The lack of action by the AFC Leader Raphael Trotman over those remarks was cited by Mr Persaud as one of the grounds for his vote on Friday in favour of the motion of no confidence. Other APNU+AFC members have been similarly let off for poor behaviour, Minister Simona Broomes being another example. There are repercussions for conduct that offends normative modes and this was clearly evident on Friday. It is either APNU and the AFC are encouraging this despicable behaviour or are unwilling to risk disciplining their members.

Loss of the motion of no confidence now requires a formal resignation by the Cabinet including the President. It is not immediately clear what that entails but one presumes that the government’s Chief Legal Advisor in consultation with others can advise the administration on how this is to be achieved as there must be full compliance with the constitutional edict. Once the resignation provision is complied with, the APNU+AFC government would then be expected to serve in the mode of a caretaker administration, its primary objective being to oversee the path towards general elections and the election of a President.

Since the budget has been passed for 2019, it is expected that the government would proceed along the path of the fulfilment of the objectives of the programmes that it outlined. What would not be acceptable are any overt attempts at electioneering initiatives such as wages increases or tax concessions for certain classes. In the campaign period that would be expected to begin shortly, the APNU+AFC government will have to be circumspect in the use of state resources. These matters should certainly be discussed at the level of President Granger and Opposition Leader, Jagdeo.

With the uncertainty engendered by the elections and the premature end of the term of this government, there is a real and present danger that policy implementation, the legislative agenda and necessary actions in key parts of the economy can become stalemated. The sugar industry and the oil and gas sector are at crucial stages – the latter demands the expediting of a raft of legislation to ensure Guyana’s interests are protected at First Oil in 2020. The Department of Energy also has to embark on a string of initiatives to bring greater heft to negotiations with the oil majors. None of these tasks can be compromised. These areas should also be immediately addressed by the two leaders and the necessary assurances given.

Another vital cog in the democratic wheel activated by the passage of the no-confidence motion is the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM). By all accounts, GECOM was able to efficiently conduct the November 12 Local Government Elections and should therefore be able to reactivate the election machinery for general elections albeit the planning would have to be on a different scale. The immediate concern however is the health of GECOM’s Chairman, retired justice James Patterson. He had been unwell and meetings of GECOM have been postponed to early January. There had been no urgency until Friday’s vote. If general elections are to be  held in 90 days, the machinery must begin rolling immediately and the country would need to be assured that Chairman Patterson would be in a position to undertake his crucial functions.

While Friday’s vote may reflect in part the governing coalition’s poor management of its relations with its constituents – the WPA had been an early complainant – there is a much more fundamental flaw at work. Both the APNU+AFC administration and its predecessor, the PPP/C were inflexible in relation to garnering comfortable majorities that could redound to the political health of the country. The 2011 Ramotar administration actually attempted to function as a minority government until it was forced to call general elections to avoid the very fate that its party was able to subject the current government to on Friday.

The APNU+AFC administration dreamily assured itself of a five-year term even though the reality was that on any budget vote one abstention or vote against was enough to trigger its loss of power. Not even the tabling of the motion of no confidence seemed to have awakened in it the realization that three and a half years of its governance could have awakened deep-seated and seething resentment at its handling of the sugar industry and other parts of the economy to the extent that it could lose office. It was a seminal lesson in the weak leadership that has been in the offing from this government.

Neither the PPP/C nor the PNCR – its latest incarnation being cosseted in APNU+AFC – has shown any inclination away from winner-take-all politics. The only real prospect of inclusive and shared governance lies in the two main parties being made to strike compromises with third parties as the AFC was able to do until its leaders became sated with the trappings of office and no longer held APNU accountable. One hopes even though there is now only a short window to general elections that other contenders will seek to break the stranglehold that the duopoly holds in this Parliament. It is the only hope for better governance than the country has had over five decades of independence.