Political Guyana

  • Regardless of what is stated in our Westminster type constitution, we are not a people doing normal politics with a united public political opinion with which to hold governments accountable
  • The constitution has largely been written for a country with normal politics:
    • Relatively homogeneous
    • Changing/fluid majorities
  • The ‘mixed’ people are largely split between PPP and PNC ethnicities
  • We are essentially a bicommunal society: two large ethnic group make up more than 70% electorate
  • The ethnic groups each have their specific ‘public opinion’ nurtured by their political elites or ethnic entrepreneurs
  • Consensus across ethnicities is only possible when suites the party elites – crossing the floor in the national assembly
  • Countries like Guyana requires a consensual democratic framework to be reasonably managed – Switzerland, Belgium, Malaya, Northern Ireland

 

Consensual democracy

The consensual principle of democracy is in several ways the opposite to the majoritarian vision and emphasizes that the political institutions should encourage, in the extreme, mandate the inclusion of as many political perspectives as possible. Accordingly, democracy is improved in the consensual sense if it makes it easier for small groups to be represented in the political system and make their voices heard, and that require the national head of government to share power with other political actors and bodies. This also reflects the ideal that responsiveness is accomplished when each interest can have its own party represented. Consensual democracy therefore emphasizes proportional electoral laws making large party systems possible, having two (or more) legislative chambers, forming oversized multiparty cabinets, separating national and subnational political units (federalism), constitutional provisions of supermajorities, strong judicial review, among other attributes’ (Varieties of democracies (V-Dem, 2017) ‘Comparisons and Contrasts with Other Measurement Projects’)

 

Big reform issues

  • Executive rotating or co-presidency (Switzerland & Northern Ireland)
  • Strong separation of powers: president and minister not MPs
  • Government cannot prorogue parliament
  • Fix term parliament and presidency
  • Parliament and presidency different budgetary processes
  • More prestige for parliamentarians, chair of committees given higher prestige
  • Mixed proportional system with more MPs accountable, in their own name, to their constituencies
  • National Assembly needs a super majority to limit majoritarianism
  • Parliamentary/cabinet ethnic veto to protest ethnic interest if necessary (Belgium, Northern Ireland, etc)
  • 2/3 majority, not referendum, highest level of constitutional authority because it is more difficult to acquire
  • Stronger regionalism rooted in subsidiarity, i.e. higher governmental levels do what they can do best
  • Political parties financing, manifesto promises, etc, more transparent (West Germany)

 

Small reform issues

  • Tie breaker to make appointment of top judicial officials
  • End to one man constitutional court
  • End government’s capacity to change their own salaries
  • Parliament oversight of budget: who can do what
  • Post elections coalition: good for small parties
  • The place of prorogation in the general scheme of things
  • Closed parliamentary top-up list system: citizens have idea who will be to-up MPs
  • Independent MP voting as they please
  • Presidential term limits make stronger
  • Curtail powers of the president: immunities, etc.
  • Election financing

 

Measures to prevent dictatorial tendencies

This appears more of a theoretical problem; no practical example of it happening. The opposite break-up is far more prevalent. But the following should help:

  • All parties gaining more than 10/15% have share of the government
  • Rotating, co-presidents (Switzerland & Northern Ireland), president securing more than 50% of the votes cast (Suriname)
  • Increasing local autonomy with a percent of the GDP going directly to them
  • Enhanced separation of powers: executive not in National Assembly
  • Constituency independence: MPs standing in own name; voting as they please
  • Ethnic interest vote: each MP may designate herself African, Indian, Amerindian and have special voting right on certain issues (Northern Ireland, Belgium, etc)

Strengthening laws that make stronger the media, private sector, trade union and civil society sectors