LIGHTNING DOES NOT STRIKE TWICE
As part of the syndrome of self-delusion, there are forces that are peddling the view that the PPP is a weakened political party. Nothing could be further from the truth. The illusion of a weakened PPP emerges from the fact that the PPP no longer enjoys a majority in the National Assembly, unlike in the past when it commanded a healthy majority.
The possibility of the ruling party not holding a majority was always on the cards following constitutional reforms initiated after 1997, and which allowed for a change in the way in which the seats in the National Assembly are allocated. Those changes in the rules mean that at best, whoever wins an election in Guyana will never command more than a five-seat majority.
Elections in Guyana will always be a highly competitive process. The AFC understood this fact. This is why they never got into an alliance with APNU. Their campaign team appreciated that in the previous parliament, the PPP’s majority was not commanding, even though they won the 2006 elections by a landslide. In fact, the PPP has won landslide victories in 1997, 2001 and 2006. In 1992 and 2011 they failed by the narrowest of margins to do so. In 2011, the margin was under 2%.
The AFC’s campaign team knew that even with a landslide victory at the polls the PPP would at best only command a slim numerical majority in the National Assembly. They appreciated that the greater the number of parties with potential for gaining even one seat, the better the chances of the AFC holding the balance of power in parliament. This is why they did not enter into an alliance with APNU. The AFC now holds the balance of power between APNU and the PPP. For them this will be as good as it gets.
APNU also understood the math. It appreciated that given the pre-destined slim majority in parliament, voter turnout rates were important. APNU had a superior voter turnout rate than the PPP and this is why it recovered lost ground. However, unless voting patterns change, APNU stands little chance of overhauling the PPP’s command of the electorate. In 2011, APNU did not achieve in percentage terms what the PNC did at the polls in 1992, and will probably never ever do so.
The fact that the PPP failed to gain a majority has to do with a number of factors, not the least of which was the issue of corruption, the disconnection between the government and the party, the “cuss-out,” campaign that was conducted. This mud-slinging campaign diverted attention from their impressive record of economic achievements. However, the model of economic development that led to these achievements also led to tremendous alienation of voters.
There are forces within the PPP who do not want to accept that mistakes were made in government and on the campaign trail. As such they are trying to deflect blame to the party organization and make the party the scapegoat for the failure of the PPP to win a majority.
They wish to have the party, rather than their government with a powerful presidency capable of marginalizing the party, shoulder the responsibility for the fact that the PPP narrowly failed to win a majority of the votes cast in 2011 polls.
The PPP remains the strongest political force, organizationally, in Guyana. It can command numbers and resources that no other party can command. It now has more branches in more parts of the country than any other party. It is also financially sounder than any other party both during and outside of election campaign season. Even in Linden where it lost ground in 2011, the party still commanded over 15% of the votes cast in the once “non-penetrable” stronghold of the PNC.
The PPP is a mass party. Winning elections is now about mass campaigning. The days of door-to-door campaigning are over. Mass media campaigns are what now bring in the votes. But even when it comes to footwork, the PPP outdid all political parties in the 2011 elections. It had more volunteers on the ground than the opposition parties combined, held more campaign meetings and was in more areas than any other political party. The argument therefore that the PPP is weakened does not stand scrutiny.
The PPP’s party machinery and organization have not been weakened. The PPP won landslides from 1997 right through to 2006. The PPP was not humiliated in 2011. In fact, it narrowly failed to win again by a landslide.
However, even a landslide at polls will only provide a slim numerical advantage in parliament and this is what the PPP now faces.
But do not let anyone believe that lightning will strike twice. The opposition has had their glory and the people are seeing the chaos and confusion that is reigning in their camps. They have had their moment to shine and instead they are showing their penchant for destructive, vindictive and vengeful politics.
The PPP is not going to make the same mistakes again. Whether it is snap elections or elections in the next five years, the PPP will regain lost ground but it will never hold more than a five-seat majority. The electoral rules simply would not allow for any better outcome.