It has become fashionable of recent for some political commentators/analysts to advocate that “shared governance” (SG) replace the Westminster style “winner-takes-all” (WTA) system. This idea of shared governance has been around in Guyana for 4 decades but it never got much political traction before.
In 2005, the emergence of the Alliance for Change (AFC) that comprised members of the professional, academic and business class in its leadership, was viewed as offering a balancing act between the two major parties in Parliament. Given the changing demographic structure, with no race being a majority, combined with race aligned voting, it was believed that a third force could play a crucial role in shaping policy and in curbing the excesses of the governing party. To some extent that theory was proven correct when the AFC secured 28,366 votes at the 2006 general and regional elections and gaining 5 Parliamentary seats.
The third force activists were energized and they progressively expanded their membership base as well as their electoral appeal. At the 2011 general and regional elections they received 35,333 votes, enough to muster 7 Parliamentary seats. Faith in the third force as an empowering instrument had been vindicated. The AFC used their position in Parliament to block PPPC legislation and even filed a NCM (No Confidence Motion) against the PPPC government in 2014, a move that precipitated the May 2015 general and regional elections.
At the 2015 elections the AFC continued to expand their popular appeal when it was estimated that they received at least 10% of the traditional PPPC votes, even though they formed a coalition with APNU. The success of the third force movement had knocked the wind out of the sail of the shared governance campaign. Despite their manifesto promise of constitutional reform, including shared governance, the APNU-AFC coalition was in no mood to pursue that. But the disappointing performance of AFC has smothered the third force movement.
Now that this third force movement (AFC) has fallen into disarray, and the two major political parties have been left to contest for electoral supremacy, it is believed by SG advocates that shared governance could tame the major parties’ penchant for abuse. This decay of the AFC has invigorated the shared governance campaign. Whatever it’s format or variation, it (SG) has now become the mantra of several political parties, including the PNCR and ANUG. The great challenge though is that there is still no workable model or definition of shared governance. I will repeat some of my concerns on shared governance.
1. What model of shared governance do advocates propose? It it ministerial, commission and state board involvement? Or involvement in all layers of governmental operations and at both regional and national levels? Is it a federal form as proposed by Ravi Dev? Is there any example of a model of shared governance in operation in any democratic society?
2. What evidence is available that shared governance is better than “winner- takes- all,” (WTA)? While it’s easy to state the evils of WTA, what makes anyone think that these would not happen with shared governance?
3. Why Suriname and Trinidad & Tobago with similar demographic structure as Guyana, tend to embrace WTA instead?
5. Who or which party will serve as the Parliamentary opposition and how would accountability be attained in shared governance?
6. Is there any reason to believe that shared governance will reduce the incidence of corruption?
7. How would a system of shared governance allow for reconciling divergent views, positions, and ideologies of political parties?
8. The fact that the opposition party is not part of the government (or cabinet) does not necessarily mean that their supporters will be neglected. There may be instances of discrimination but this could be minimized through the constant flow of “ethnic impact statements” (EIS).
While shared governance may probably cause ethnic groups and political parties to feel ‘good’ but, will such a move necessarily lead to a reduction of income inequality, poverty and marginalization? The PNCR coalition wielded the full force of governance (not in a system of shared governance) during the last 5 years, yet it had not been able to reduce poverty, unemployment, marginalization and income inequality. If they (PNCR) work with other parties that embrace differing perspectives and philosophy, does anyone think that the results will be any better or different?
I am not against any new system that will work to alleviate poverty and marginalization, create employment, reduce inequality, and produce responsive and responsible governance. But I believe that serious research and analysis must first be conducted before we move in this direction. Once this issue is settled, it could become part of constitutional reform. Too much of the debate on SG has been based on polemics and political platitudes, and very little on research and empirical evidence.