It is often said that politics is a way of life. In Guyana, people were known to eat, sleep and drink politics. In many homes where friends would gather, the talk would, more often than not, be on some political issue or some perceived solution to a political problem.
There was scarcely a rum shop in which there was no conversation on politics, and the drunker the speakers got, the more serious the conversation appeared to become. At this time, with an election a mere two or three months away, there would have been masses of people going house-to-house to check on potential voters and to convince the undecided.
There would have been many political meetings, some at street corners and others at homes of the various party supporters. Posters would have been going up and getting torn down; there would have been the cars with their public announcements and there would have been campaign banners all over the place.
This time this year, the place is cold. It is as if there is a normal run of things. I met a couple of people on the streets and to a man or woman they asked me whether there is an election on. I smiled and suggested that the campaign strategy had changed markedly.
At two press conferences hosted by the ruling People’s Progressive Party there were reports on things pertaining to the elections. That party’s presidential candidate, Donald Ramotar, said that the party had held some 400 community meetings.
At another press conference, Robert Persaud announced that the first of the campaign rallies would be held on October 2. Already the advertisements have gone out. Pretty soon there would be the hype. It may be a money thing, but the opposition parties appear to be more low-keyed.
But then again, I remembered the campaign waged by President Barack Obama. He used the electronic media to good effect. He spoke to all who would have access to the social network and got more young people than at any other time interested in politics.
Indeed, I saw a lot of the political discussions on the internet, more than I heard from the politicians themselves. There were some interesting discussions and some may have helped form opinions. The only thing is that most of the commentators are outside Guyana and are unlikely to have a physical impact at the polls.
Some of the people manning internet radios hosted politicians, but there was the problem of the number of people who would have actually heard the discussions. There was some television use, but not enough.
It must be that Guyanese have become apathetic. A friend called me to say that the revelations from the libel case initiated by President Bharrat Jagdeo are good for the PPP. He said that the campaign for the PPP has been made easy.
His rationale is that the speakers would go to the bottom house and inform the people that it is a proven fact that the party has done just about everything for East Indians.
I do not want to believe him, because I firmly believe that the issue is more than race. There is the question of security. I am certain that people of Indian ancestry would claim that they are targeted for bandit attacks more than any other race group. They are going to say that after nearly two decades, the party they support has done nothing to help them.
The corollary is that people of every other ethnicity would say that the government has ignored them. That is the downside of the revelations in the court. But apart from people quietly saying that they are interested in the revelations, there seems to be apathy.
And this is to be expected. The people who determine the outcome of the elections would say that nothing has changed for them, regardless of who ruled them. There will be those who will recognize that their living standards have improved, that more of them have cars, but the poor man—and they constitute about thirty-six per cent of the population — would not make any such claim.
In fact, they would say that their numbers are increasing.
Then there are the growing numbers of people who are either illiterate or barely literate. These would not care if Christmas falls on Good Friday, because all they would be concerned with is the next meal or the next DJ show. The men are going to go there with one eye on the show and the other on some victim.
The party that could approach these people with money would surely collect a few more votes because these people do not care about loyalty.
But having said all that, I could not help but notice the slogans on the roadway. They targeted President Jagdeo and not the ruling party. Last week I contended that President Jagdeo actually separated himself from the party so that whatever dirt might have accumulated would have followed him and not the party.
I expect the opposition politicians would continue to criticize Jagdeo, leaving Donald Ramotar to say that he is the symbol of change and that his party is clean.
I can hardly wait for the campaign but for now, I am forced to concentrate on so many other things.
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