Regardless of how well-intentioned they might be, the small parties which have emerged such as the Citizenship Initiative and the Liberty and Justice Party, will likely face an uphill task in mounting an electoral challenge to the two major political giants, being the PPP and the APNU+AFC coalition.
Ralph Ramkarran, the former Speaker of the National Assembly, in his most recent commentary, articulated that small parties will face several challenges since they are required to present a list of candidates comprising 65 members, 30 percent of whom must be women. Further, the list must be supported by the signatures of 300 members of the electorate.
Ramkarran, who is also the Presidential Candidate of a fledgling party, A New and United Guyana (ANUG), said that these onerous requirements in relation to the general elections strongly militate against the interests of small parties which will struggle to comply with them.
He said, “…It is the main reason why the number of political parties contesting the elections since the 2006 elections, have seen a dramatic decline. The reform of the electoral system is a paramount concern of the new parties with the main elements being a restoration of the constituency system with a small number of seats remaining for ‘top-up’ purposes to maintain proportionality.”
Further, Ramkarran said that currently, the ‘constituencies,’ that is, the 10 regions, return 25 members to the National Assembly while the top-up list consists of 40 persons.
The ANUG Presidential Candidate said there is no reason why there should not be 50 to 55 constituencies with a top-up list of 10 to 15 members, who would be more than sufficient to maintain proportionality, so that a political party obtains seats in the National Assembly in direct proportion to the percentage of votes that it receives.
Ramkarran said that the APNU+AFC government did not see it fit to implement this urgent and unopposed reform which has been recommended by the Constitution Reform Commission since 1999-2000.
In closing, the former PPP member said it is to the benefit of the electorate to have a wide choice, presented by the new parties, rather than a restricted ethnic choice that has been available to them for more than 60 years.