Power Sharing Governance: the case For and Against
By Kenneth Persaud

Since the introduction of democratically held elections (1992), an avalanche of experts has arisen with touching humanitarian goodwill to rescue Guyana from its downright awful governing arrangements. Never before in its history has so many pundits descended with so much insight: they have addressed from constitution to constituency with tremendous academic rigor – and gut-wrenching vigor. Learned treatises and passionate discourses flow to overflowing – from the dirty drains of Georgetown to thy kingdom come.

However, in an earlier era, all of independence, the learned man, Comrade Forbes Burnham, and his protégé Mr.Desmond Hoyte, administrators of a brutal dictatorship, were spared such benevolent courtesy. Those of us, who were residents and had the gumption to say a thing or two, were personally beaten, mauled, raped, jailed, murdered. Our families were violated in fiery fury.

And the punditry was silent, silently lying in wait, in hibernation perhaps, preparing to pump up the volume with the dawn of a better day.

That better day came when a slither of democracy made its presence, when the ballot box was prized open 1992. But, many an apologist, many armed with agendas of their own, are fuming and fretting. The way to power seems reachable; but, as yet, elusive to elitist wanabees. Some are trying to gain power by "whatever means necessary", even outside of the prescribed rules. They seek Power Sharing.

I came upon a document titled: Power Sharing in a Plural Society: the case of Guyana, authored by Dr. Tara Singh and Dr. Dhanpaul Narine, in which the authors are apparently trying to make a case for constitutional change in order to usher in a “regime change”.

Here is a document all in one piece. It provides an excellent base to spur debate and discussion for which the authors have made a call. I laud the authors Singh and Narine (S&N) for publishing their thoughts in a reachable form, (www. guyanacaribbeanpolitics.com).

I am joining the debate and am urging others to do so as well. Generally speaking, I will agree with very little that S&N have offered. Such a wide spectrum should encourage a wide cross section of readership to join. Hopefully, the authors will also contribute if only for clarifications, amplifications, and so on.
So, with substantive discussion in mind, I waded through the nine-thousand-word document to ascertain the rationale for the S&N proposal. I wanted to find out the reason/s for which they need to have a power sharing government in Guyana.

An excerpted portion of their presentation, which follows, is presented in this introductory piece in order to give some context and a feel for the authors' understanding of the problem, and the possible solutions:

"With the introduction of PR into the electoral system in 1964, the stage was set not for good governance, but rather, for the exacerbation of racial tensions, the persistence of under-development, and the further polarization of the races.

"With the introduction of major electoral reforms in the early 1990s … the stage was set not only for general elections under a revised system, but also, for a change in the country’s governmental administration.

"At three subsequent elections (1992, 1997, 2001), the PNC Party had failed to secure its usual majority of Parliamentary seats under the PR system. Like so many other politicians, [the PNC] too, failed to read how race-based voting was so strongly entrenched in Guyanese politics. The PPP had made
similar miscalculations regarding Afro-Guyanese voters.

"Having failed to get a majority of the votes in the 1992 general elec tions, the PNC still fancied its chances of winning at the 1997 polls .… when the results of the 1997 elections were announced, the PNC were stunned again.

"One does not have to be a rocket scientist to know that race was, once again, the determinant factor in influencing voting choices.

"Given the demographics of the country, therefore, and the ethnic-based voting patterns, the PNC hierarchy believes that its chances of recapturing power under the present system is poor. The party must, therefore, seek alternative strategies of participation in the govern mental process …." [All emphases mine – I'll deal with these con cepts later.]

As introduction, it is necessary for me to present the authors' wider argument a bit more coherently, and concisely. Here is the thrust of their presentation in summary form:

1. Guyana's problem is race, racial exacerbation, and further racial polarization.
2. Racial voting was introduced, and sustained, by the system of proportional representation, introduced by foreign elites, the Brits and Americans.
3. Proportional Representation (PR) was meant to change of the Government at the time, (1964, PPP), but, PR, having initially succeeded, went on to produce an elected PPP government in 1992. The PPP's ascent to power was due to racial block voting facilitated by PR
4. The government is perceived by the main opposition PNC as being one sided. The PNC, the authors declare, is rightfully peeved, because it does not sit in the decision making process, in whole or in part.
5. In order to thwart the PPP's one-sidedness, the governing structure should be made to accommodate the main opposition party and,
perhaps, the other parliamentary parties as well.
6. S&N, therefore, conclude: "Power Sharing is an idea whose time has come, it should take center stage…. We commend Power Sharing to the people of Guyana."

Whether the time for the sharing of power has indeed arrived, we'll discuss in subsequent articles. For the purpose of this overview let me make a general comment as to S&N's method for arriving at their ultimate declaration.

Pardon a slight parenthetical remark. In the healing sciences, doctors usually utilize one of two methods for treating patients. In a case of diabetes, for instance, the doctor may prescribe painkillers so that the patient drops painlessly to an inevitably premature death. This method is usually referred to as the band-aid approach. The other method may involve something like a food regimen, with some tablets and the like in order to affect a "cure". By the latter, a more holistic approach, the patient may enjoy quite a longer, more productive life. (I, and every other person I know, who has a sugar problem, opt for the second route.)

Now back to the original story. S&N, in their diagnosis of hapless Guyana, have identified PR as cause for racism, the twin interlocking diseases that face the nation. [With this determination, I am in complete agreement.] However, we part ways here: my taking the second, they the first route. They have chosen the band-aid method; they have not addressed the fundamental problems of PR and racism at all. Their attention is focused on a topic with several degrees of separation. Are we to understand that we have to live with PR and racism, both cancers, in perpetuity? Or, are they saying that the shuffling of a few chairs in Cabinet Office and tinkering here and there within the governmental structure will translate into racial peace? One does not have to be a rocket scientist to realize that such prognoses in the nation's interest are a cop out!

But, are they!

Now, as Guyanese, interested in Guyana's political health, one would expect S&N to comprehensively address the problems they themselves have identified as fundamental to their country's malady, that is, PR and racism. But such analysis does not further their enterprise. So they create a straw man. That straw man is Power Sharing which they borrow. (See below). They employ their considerable skills at addressing this alien in nearly all of their 16-page treatise on Power Sharing.

And since they cannot garner any empirical evidence to support their "straw-man" proposal, they enter into the domain of emotive/sentimental propagandizing. Rather emphatically they state that PR was meant to create instability in government and keep the PPP out of power. Quite true. That song, sung for several decades, is music in the ears of the PPP and its adherents, usually Indians. It has been their rallying mantra, the vindication for a spent top order. And, for the PPP's lower order, in the politically charitable diaspora, say, that's progressive talk. These are our guys: they understand our plight; they understand how we have been robbed; they understand the real problem. They are us. {It was one of these happy customers who drew my attention to the article in question.) But that's the charm that comes before the storm; that's the first ingredient in the propagandistic enterprise, the enterprise called hoodwinking. So, Power Sharing becomes palatable; and PR/racism which they themselves have identified as fundamental to their country's malady, is dismissed to oblivion.

S&N should be complimented to do what it takes to persuade people to their cause, which is to propose that: "The party (PNC) must seek alternative strategies of participation in the governmental process …."

But, in the process they have put themselves in a bind. They abandoned their identified core problem/s, so they have to find some justification for introducing the straw man, Power Sharing. Here it is: "A political solution to Guyana’s problems would begin with a government where power is shared between Indo-Guyanese and Afro-Guyanese."

That advice to the Guyanese people sounds quite plausible to the unwary. And S&N latch on to it. As well, it serves a useful purpose. Coming out of the AP Wire Service, the sentiment there expressed, was given tremendous play in Guyana, and the Caribbean. It even made its way to New York by way of a reactionary "newspaper". What better justification does one need to enter into a discussion of Power Sharing, the thought having come from a high, "credible" source, and with such wide broadcast.

But, on examination, one finds that that statement comes from the same source which gave us PR, that mischievous thing, in the first place – and it is just as detrimental today as it was then. It is consistent with US foreign policy which has been to "keep certain regimes out". So here we find S&N, in full trot, abandon their patriotic call to duty to embrace Tom Whitney of USAID. This embrace it may be emphasized is meant to "set the stage not for good governance, but rather, for the exacerbation of racial tensions, the persistence of under-development, and the further polarization of the races."
It follows, therefore, that these tried and tested methods are meant to aid the most charged faction of the opposition batteries, which has been the PNC elites. They need PR. PR is still the best means for keeping them alive, into some position of power. It does hand them a bargaining chip arising out of racial voting. Having got some "numbers", they can bully themselves into a Power Sharing arrangement, having been rewarded by non-ballot box means, by "alternative strategies".

S&N's Power Sharing Governance is tinkering, a shuffle of chairs around the Cabinet desk; it does not address the national good. It's faction oriented, the kind of thing that has been with us for four decades. It's like crooked barbed wire in our sides. Perhaps S&N may want to quote the American President: "It looks like the re-run of a bad movie and we should not be interested in watching it." Perhaps S&N would re-consider their proposal and let's try to find something that will aid all of Guyana.

But I'm afraid that, with the support "for alternative strategies", political "stability" is in danger, some strange things may happen. As that happens, I, too, will suggest a Shared Governance, but, my Shared Governance is opposed to the direction of S&N's. My Shared Governance requires that those who adorn the musical chairs share the government with the people below – not in a horizontal but in a vertical relationship.

But for Power Sharing of any stripe, PR has to be kept alive and so is racism. And, for the winners, it's not who has failed; it's who has been prevented from succeeding. This and other conundrums will be dealt with now where I'll consider possible solutions for PR and racism on a national scale and in the nation's interest.

Thus far we find that Dr. Dhanpaul Narine and Dr. Tara Singh in their "Power sharing in a plural society: the case of Guyana" established that Proportional Representation gave rise to an institutionalized racism, and these two interlocking maladies are the main reason for Guyana's economic and social problems. Here they are verbatim:

"With the introduction of PR into the electoral system in 1964, the stage was set not for good governance, but rather, for the exacerba tion of racial tensions, the persistence of under-development, and the further polarization of the races." (Their emphasis).

I agreed with the Singh & Narine's (S&N) formulation as fundamental to analysis of Guyana's problem. But I am asking why was First-Past-the-Post Constituency System overthrown and PR introduced? S&N say: To overthrow PPP. That's too simplistic an answer. Let's ask: Who are the winners from that stratagem? Here is the answer, the conundrum to which I referred: the winners are those who have prevented the others from succeeding – a dichotomy between US (losers) and THEY (winners). But who are US and who are THEY? Here is the US part of that inequation:

With the introduction of PR into the electoral system in 1964, the stage was set not for good governance, but rather, for the exacerba tion of racial tensions, the persistence of under-development, and the further polarization of the races. (My additional emphasis).

And further, quoting S&N:

East Indians and Africans, who make up the majority (90%) of the country's population vote strictly along racial lines. Elections have been analogous to racial referenda, in which the majority group takes all. "This winner takes all" approach has caused the minority parties (opposition) to remain perpetually in the shadows without any hope of shaping national policy. The frustration that has been created by this system has recently led to the main opposition party's frequent engagements in illegal and unconventional methods with a view to making its voice heard. It seems that "race" and "violence" have become integral to that strategy.

THEY changed the system in their own interests – not in Guyana's. And they succeeded: they succeeded by creating the infrastructure for Guyana to fail. It was not meant to fail the PPP per se, it was meant to halt the progress that Guyana was making. The PPP was the torchbearer, and in the understanding of the opponent, the PPP would have continued to take Guyana forward. So, I submit, the winners were not the PNC cum D'Aguiar coalition – they actually started the ruin of the nation. They, like Guyana, were losers.

Now, we have to ask ourselves this question: Who are THEY, the winners? You see: in analytic work you have to ask the right questions; or else, you come up with the wrong answers.

THEY according to S&N were the British and the Americans. This is what S&N say:

Guyana had a first-past-the-post system (in which the candidate who received the most votes for a particular geographic constituency would win that seat), but the imposition of the Duncan Sandys’ formula in 1963, which was conceived with active American collusion, changed not only the electoral system to proportional representation (a system in which voters cast their ballots for a particular party, instead of a particular candidate), but also, the entire political landscape of the country by ousting the Marxist-based PPP from power in 1964. (My emphasis)

But I'm sure S&N, with certain other apologists, will argue that the overthrow of the PPP was a cold war imperative, that is to say, the US and UK were blocking communism from entering their hemisphere. However, if that were so, how do they explain this: Burnham was Marxist-Leninist as well. Indeed, he used to label the PPP'ites as soi disant Marxists. But THEY installed him, nevertheless.

If Burnham could have been the torchbearer for Guyana, let's ask: What would have been the fate of the PNC? Any answers? His regime would have changed too by the omnipresent winners, US/UK.

Earlier we came to the conclusion that PR is necessary in Guyana to ensure a certain outcome, that is, to keep the nation racially polarized so that the omnipresent, if invisible winners win. That is to say that whosoever solves the internal problem, and are likely to chart a progressive course must lose. Isms are immaterial.

But, I'm sure, S&N and similar others will jump on me. After all, that was then and this is now: there is no cold war now; Guyana is now a post-colonial society, no longer a colony; Guyana is now independent, which is another way to say that the Americans and the British have no interest in Guyana, or some such tripe. It may hurt if I say that America and Britain are at war now. The only difference is that their foreign policy of "regime change" is now belligerently expressed. In earlier times "regime change" was baptized "covert action" and it was an underhand operation as is taking place in today's Venezuela, and will soon return to Brazil, our neighbors.

It is very interesting that S&N quote Prof. Clive Thomas, a political economist, to bolster their case. Smart move. But it might make their readers smarter were they to consider Prof. Thomas in his January 19th 2003 article: Feeling the heat: Globalisation and the Latin American-Caribbean Region.

The testing time facing globalisation is nowhere more acutely felt than in the Latin American-Caribbean region. The region is 'feeling the heat' and international media coverage of events in countries like Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Haiti, Jamaica and Guyana leaves little doubt about the turbulence engulfing it.

Or, they might want to consider Aziz Chowdhury's succinct observation: "I keep seeing books, articles and correspondence which refer to a “post-colonial world”. Which world is that? Hand me a telescope. It doesn’t seem to be in this galaxy."

Or, Henry Kissenger, the formidable, former US Secretary of State, "[W]hat is called Globalization is really another name for the dominant role of the United States."

Within the realm of their ideological prism, S&N categorize PR as part of the Westminister model, the method which, in their words, gave us until 1964 the "last free and fair" parliamentary elections.

The 1964 general elections under PR was generally believed to be the last "free and fair" elections. Ever since, PR has been associated with electoral "rigging," not to mention the chronic problems associated with under-development.

But obeisance, party tribalism, demands that they knock down the whole structure of the Westminister electoral model. We have all read the same books on political philosophy and perhaps we should remind ourselves of the classics. Recall Theodore Adorno. He said: "If voting could change a system, it would be illegal." Let's reflect: it was first-past-the-post, the basic ingredient of the Westminister model that had stopped working for the bosses. And they dealt with it brutally, so brutally as a matter of fact that Guyana cannot yet begin to survive. What analysts have we thrown up that we cannot see beyond the game set for us?

Singh and Narine are deep in a tangential analysis, band-aid if you like, as proposed by Dr. David Hinds. (We will take up David's work when we come to address racism after the Cricket World Series. Hope he forgives me for mentioning that for twenty years I have been suggesting that his patriotic militancy gets in the way of his clarity of thought and vision. We'll examine the dropping of the ball by the WPA at a crucial time in the history of Guyana, after the 54th match March 23.)

Meantime, let's examine the S&N feeble attempt to knock down the Westminister electoral model. They say that it proposes, "winner takes all" with a "shadow cabinet" in waiting, a bad thing. S&N need instant gratification, not a four-year turn around. The Westminister model, with creative domestic modifications, is doing active duty from post-colonial India, the world's most populous state, to post-colonial Suriname, one of the world's smallest. But we are asked to believe that it cannot be used in post-colonial Guyana! Relegating the Westminister model to a "delusion" and a "bit of colonial psychology" they suggest that it be killed. However, they have not proposed anything else. At this time of writing, Israel is once again locked in battle to form a government after PR elections, which spawned a plate of twenty-six starters for the race. Guyana had twenty-odd the last time, all due to the watchdog imposition of the US-UK military axis.

It has been my contention that in spite of the throwing out of First-Past-The-Post system and imposition of PR, Guyana could have still beaten its opposition. But Burnham, either in fear or collusion, would have nothing to do with it. He, like Brazil and Argentina, was involved in creating Miracles – and they did: they taught their people to spend without money, to eat without food, to live without life. And, all their countries were wasted.

In the post-independence era, black skins wore white masks; they were the heroes of the crowd; and they were pampered into believing that they were the new masters. They had little use for the masses so long as a democratic façade was presented by way of "representative" parliaments.

Democracy lost its original meaning and intent. Consider Aristotle: "If liberty and equality, as is thought by some, are chiefly to be found in democracy, they will be best attained when all persons alike share in the government to the utmost."

The proponents of the Power Sharing paradigm are concerned with sharing power between a privileged few. They even use a fanciful word to describe them. They are called "STAKEHOLDERS". It's a wise person who has made that coinage. And Power Sharers, the stakeholders, are concerned with their own affairs, their group fate. The people at large are merely mentioned in passing. [Watchmen are now called investigative engineers, I am told.]

On a serious note: our stakeholders should realize that power lies in the wisdom of an informed people (not addressed by S&N). This is no abstract phenomenon. The collective people have more ability to run their own affairs than all the doctors who make their sterile prescriptions. These are the people who must be allowed to organize on their own behalf. The ancient Greeks perfected the art of democracy by meeting collectively in the open plaza, and they ran their affairs very well. Here we are, civilized moderns, wittingly or unwittingly, advise us to pass our only possession to stakeholders who themselves pass it on to THEM, the stakeholders of corporatist globalization.

Narine and Singh say people must speak forcefully at the ballot box, send their representatives, chosen proportionately, to occupy executive chairs of Government. So, having chosen their representatives and transferred their only power to the stakeholders, the lowly must now prepare themselves for Public Hearings. Here is their monstrous formulation, deception writ large:

Closely associated with good government, is the need to institute a system of Public Hearings where people at all levels of society will be given the opportunity to speak directly to government officials on a variety of matters. There is no better way to empower people at the grass roots in the governmental process than through this method. (S&N's emphasis)

So, having ballot-voted, the voters now wait for Public Hearings from their officials, the stakeholders who have a monopoly on knowledge and expertise! So, Singh and Narine have found the panacea for fixing Guyana's twin maladies. I summarize their professional regimen:

No! No! No! Not so quickly! There are much better ways to engage in the real democratic process. S&N Power Sharing gymnastics are a smoke screen – they are not even band-aid. Give democracy a chance. (See Aristotle above.)

If these fellas, with their Power-Sharer buddies, were presenting humor, we could have enjoyed their buffoonery. But these men are dead serious. And dead serious, too, is the American humorist George Burns: "Too bad that all the people who know how to run the country are busy – driving taxi-cabs and cutting hair.

In the meantime I will continue to wonder why do the Power Governance Grabbers not consider PR, Racism and Globalization in their learned treatises?

Singh and Narine’s thesis on good governance, which they say, flows from Power Sharing thus:

There is no better way for you to get a chance to better yourself but by voting at the ballot box and hold on until you will be given the opportunity to be visited by government officials who will see you at a Public Hearings some time.

At the very best, the above formula sends a set of people, called your representatives, called legislators, to Stabroek, who may or may not attend Parliament. These, your representatives, having been selected by the political parties, drop in to parliament now and then. They don't know you. They have no idea about your daily problems, collective or familial, personal, or otherwise. What aspects of your every day life are they representing? To whom are they representing you? And, as your representatives – they will visit bye-and-bye.

Here is an interesting tid-bit with reference to Public Hearings as espoused by Singh and Narine reported February 3, 2003 by Boris Kagarlitsky: "As the year drew to a close, an entertainment was organized for the Russian population. It was known as "Putin Answers Questions from Citizens." Out of the multitudes desperate to talk to the president, 51 fortunate souls, carefully selected and 100 per cent loyal, made it through to him. Disloyal citizens do not get to play the game of 'phone the president'.

And Putin is a democratic president according to your TV which constantly reminds that Russia has embraced democracy since the fall of the Berlin wall over a dozen years ago.

Let's not delude ourselves. For the ballot box to mean any measly thing, your representative should be one of you. He should live with you – he and his family. He should be open twenty-four seven. He should be faithful in doing your business as stipulated by you. He should be effective in the two-way traffic between you and significant others. His role as legislator in parliament is to project your wish. He does not have to power share – he may have to make compromises which, he must be sure, you will understand and appreciate. In other words, the age-old cry of "taxation without representation" should not apply, as is the case of the Power Sharers manifesto. And when he is found derelict in his duties he must be subject to recall.

But voting, even if it throws up legislator-representatives, is not sufficient for democracy in the political sense. And since, in Guyana as we have seen, we have to deal with a systemic problem, our social-political arrangements, by necessity, must go beyond the ballot box. Recall Theodore Adorno as I quoted before, "If voting could change the system, it would be illegal." Putin won the last elections with an eighty percent majority; the next time he'll probably pick up 110 percent!

Well, the truth of the matter is this: we have to change the system to make it work for us. At the same time we have to be prepared to defend it from those who benefit from the present dispensation, be they the PR'ers and the Westministerers, the political parties and their financiers, the drug lords and their anti-social counterparts, the racists and their 'cultural' sponsors, the globalizers and their Trojan banks – and certainly, from the power sharers with their learned treatises.

We've gone past the 20th century which, as Alex Carey tells us, " has been characterized by three developments of great political importance: the growth of democracy, the growth of corporate power, and the growth of corporate propaganda as a means of protecting corporate power against democracy."

So, in this new century, I'd like to suggest another kind of democratic regime, one by which every citizen may use his ability to address his own interest as he pleases, and when he wishes. I am referring not to "Power Sharing Governance" but to "Participatory Governance", (aka Participatory Democracy or Participatory Economics) a mere asterisk in a few of the proposals among the advocates of Power Sharing.

Participatory Governance (PG) proposes an alternative to the brand of exported democracy implicit in the Singh-Narine formula, and which has a crippling effect on Guyana, if not the world. The underlying values, which Participatory Governance seeks to implement, are equity, solidarity, diversity, and participatory self-management. The main institutions to attain these ends are council democracy, balanced job complexes, remuneration according to effort and sacrifice, and participatory planning.

Would you get the two major players, PPP and PNC, to agree to such a reconstructive movement at grassroots level? The answer as of now is positively NO. Could the power-sharing advocates advise their respective Parties to embrace Participatory Governance? They would fail – that would be the death knell of the PPP and PNC as they have been operating. Participatory Governance will smash their base – and their base instincts.

Without the blessings of the main political players, why then do I suggest a no-starter? To the contrary. A groundswell affects the top to the point of changing its vision. Limitations of space allows me to give but two examples where Participatory Democracy works.

The first is the beleaguered Palestine where America Vera-Zavala describes Democracy As Resistance. Since the time of the first intifada, and the permanent Israeli curfew, the Palestinians had to organize. It was their first experiment in participatory democracy – so that every person had an important reciprocating, and leadership, role to play for survival. During the first months of 1988 the Palestinians organized a system of committees. A typical committee in a city or a village had five subcommittees: 1) health committee, 2) education committee, 3) help committee, 4) guard committee, 5) agriculture committee. A coordination committee oversaw these subcommittees. In small villages there was only one, in cities several: in Ramallah, for example, there were more than one hundred popular committees.

The people cleaned the streets, organized garbage collection, gave information to media, helped the rural workers, kept hospitals and schools functioning. All problems were discussed in the committees and common solutions were approved. In some places, political parties from the main factions in the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) – Fateh, PFLP, DFLP and PCP – appointed representatives. Note that the top moved downwards and not vice versa.

The democratic rise was both successful and contagious, more and more people participated – a parallel power was established and the threat to the occupying power was evident. The Israeli army considered that the committees undermined the Israeli State, so that the Israelis made a law, stating that involvement in a popular committee was to be punished with ten years in prison. However, as Vera-Zavala explains, "the committees were difficult to erase – and the Israeli army itself gave the best explanation: 'it is impossible to place one soldier next to every Palestinian.'"

Today, it's the solidity of the democratic organization that is the threat to the occupying powers and the backbone for the people's survival. As a result, both the American President and the peacemaker Ariel Sharon express the need to install a new president in order to create a "democratic" state. In other words the culture of a participatory democracy is the stumbling block for the complete annihilation of the "state". It refuses to fall under the rubric of Western civilization, that is, corporatist democracy. Recall the majority leader of the U.S. House of Representatives, Dick Armey of Texas, who told Chris Matthews on national TV: "I'm content to have Israel grab the entire West Bank … the Palestinians should leave. They could be given land elsewhere. Arabs have lots of land elsewhere."

The un-civilized Arabs are a thorn in the sides of civilization; after all, left alone they may very well succeed, a luxury civilization cannot stand! Incidentally, the BBC is currently broadcasting a riveting series titled: "The Americanization of Global Culture", which students of politics may find interesting.

And students of politics may also find that participatory governance is not only feasible in small communities. The experience in our neighbor territory Brazil attests otherwise. In Porto Alegre, the site chosen for the recently concluded World Social Forum for three years running is a showcase for of its extraordinary mode of governance. It's a model of active participatory democracy in this hemisphere.

A short history. In 1988 the first elections for municipalities were held after 21 years of military dictatorship. In the 1.3 million city of Porto Alegre, (Guyana is less than a million) the Workers Party (acronym in Portuguese is PT) won.

The mayor as candidate ran on a program that proposed among other things to stop dismissal of workers from the public sector, to increase the public sector, to end tax incentives to corporations and to introduce a progressive tax system. The idea of participatory budget was also part of the program in the campaign. And that same year a working class kid and trade union leader, Lula, ran for presidential elections for the first time.

A citizen of Porto Allegre reported: "Participatory democracy was part of the 1988 electoral program, but nobody knew what it was. We said during the electoral campaign that we wanted to govern with popular participation, with popular councils, but not even we knew what that actually was. There was no other previous experience of this in Brazil. We wanted to change radically the way of governing, and we thought that participatory democracy would be possible".

The first year only 1000 persons participated. The municipality was bankrupt, from five hundred years of right-wing governments; the Brazilian Miracle of the '60's included. Collectively the people introduced a progressive system. During the first year more than 15 bills were presented to the local parliament and 14 of them were approved. Since that year the city has had money to invest and the citizens had more in their pockets. Participation increased.

Today more than 50,000 people engage every year in the process of the participatory system. The city is divided into 16 districts and 5 thematic committees which work with issues that concern the whole city. People engage in their districts or in the thematic committees. The objective is to give people the privilege of taking decisions by means of participatory democracy.

Forgive a bit of figures – they demonstrate representation among groups for the year 2000 for which I have figures: 43.5 % were newcomers, 58 % were women, 62.3 % were white, 20.9 % were black. Among Blacks 63.6 % were women. Age distribution among age groups was remarkable: 17.6 % were between 16-25, 16.4 % were between 26-33, 20.4 % were between 34-41, 18.6 % were between 42-49, and 25.9 % were more than 50 years old. The poorer groups were very well represented too: 24.9 % had less than 2 minimum salaries (ms), 29.3 % between 2-4 ms, 22.7 % from 4-8 ms, 10% between 8-12 ms and 13.1 % had more than 12 ms.

Participatory Democracy has made an impact both practically and politically. Today the citizens of the city have access to paved roads, sewerage system, water system, garbage collection; over 70 schools have been built. The five-hundred-year legacy of 80% illiteracy was halved. When a multinational comes to town it operates under the conditions set by the local government and the community. That public politics put demands on corporations is not only rare in the era of globalization but it's also a clear example of a vertical negotiation between the local and the global. To take decisions that do not follow the logic of globalization is not easy but is made much easier if the decision is legitimated by popular participation.

The participatory model in Porto Alegre is but one example in the world of a functioning PD where citizens are given the opportunity to take political and economic decisions.

Who would have thought that after 21 years of military dictatorship 50,000 people each year would engage and decide over the affairs of their city! Who would have thought that the working class kid that used to sell oranges in the street and then as a worker organizing factory strikes, Lula, would become president of Brazil 2003. It's all hard work and supporting institutions. Cities like Porto Alegre are a dream for global democracy that is, building from bottom up. It is because of this reason that I have a serious problem accepting Drs. Singh and Narine's thesis on Power Sharing. They claim:

Under the applicable rules a parliamentary political party will have a relatively equal chance as the other party of participating not only in the legislative body, but also, in the Government (Cabinet) and in Statutory Bodies, in proportion to their voting strength. It will thus restore a fundamental principle of democracy in the political process, called equity.

Equity! What equity? Drs. Singh and Narine's formula of ballot-box democracy cum power sharing commodifies governments, and is prime pawn to corporate globalization, which monopolizes the free market system to which it gives lip service. By definition a system of monopoly is anti-democratic.

Kenneth Persaud, former Editor of Caribbean Daylight and PrimeNews, was a Lecturer in Political Science at the University of Guyana. He is a regular contributor to community newspapers in New York.