This past week I have been asked by a few people for my view on the prospects of the Coalition at the next election. They were all supporters who voted for the collection of parties, but the results of the recently concluded LGE have caused them to ask some serious questions about the ability of the coalition to rally a majority of the electorate again.
There is anxiety about the leader’s health and the implications for intra-coalition stability and appeal to the wider electorate. But above all, there are questions about the capacity of the coalition to make up the deficit in time for 2020. They all agreed that the LGE results have sent a chilling message that has implications for who wins in 2020.
My honest feeling is that the coalition is up against it. I think the leadership has finally got the message that they have dropped the ball, but my sense is that there is no consensus on how to regain it. I don’t think there is consensus on where, when, how and why the ball was dropped in the first place.
I suspect there is a lot of finger-pointing and the attendant blame game. There are also bound to be lots of suggestions on what to do. This is to be expected, but in the end, it would not lead to any serious self-critique on the part of the collective, which is where I think the problem lies.
The coalition is a plural entity whose effectiveness should ultimately lie in its capacity to engage in the praxis of shared governance in its internal and external affairs. But its failure to make good on that promise is one of the major reasons it lost its way so quickly. In other words, the novelty of the coalition was its implicit and explicit promise to move beyond one-party rule. For the multi-ethnic masses who voted for the coalition, including many within the majority African Guyanese constituency, this promise was at the heart of their romance with the new outfit.
Even if the PPP were not on board, at least there would be shared governance among the others. Many of us felt that we had finally reached that sweet point in our politics that would open the door to a political solution and a new turn in our independence journey.
But as we would soon found out, those who were entrusted to manage this transformation had other ideas, or perhaps no ideas at all. They were collectively not interested in transformation and perhaps incapable of summoning what it takes to begin the process. This is the difficult self-critique that I doubt would emanate from the leadership.
Already, we are hearing that Ministers would be summoned to go into the communities. But as one of my close friends asked—what are they going into the communities to tell the people? You must have something to tell those people who in three years moved from a high of elevated expectations to a low of frustration and disdain.
Some of us very early in the tenure of the government pointed out that we were in the presence of something historic—that half of the electorate had given a group of parties a chance to fix our badly battered independence—to mend our broken heart, as Al Green memorably crooned not many moons ago.
David Granger was transformed into the man with a vision—a political rock-star if ever there was one. But nobody in high office listened or cared to listen. They settled down quickly into the mode of being just another government. And that is where they began to lose their supporters and their supporters began to lose interest in them.
That’s where the ball was dropped. But the leaders never noticed that they had no ball in hand, because they were too busy soaking up the “balls” of power. The late Kwame Apata captured this scenario in a poem called “Balls” which we used to perform in Buxton in the 1970s.
So, now that it has been revealed that there is no ball in hand, the challenge is where and how to locate it. I can tell you it’s not in the inability of Ministers to go into the communities. It’s not in Jagdeo’s hands. It’s not in voter apathy. It’s not in the diaspora. It’s in the capacity or incapacity of the leadership to craft a short-term message and strategy to convince the constituencies which voted for the coalition in 2015 to come back to the fold. And that’s where the challenge is. It has to be a multi-pronged strategy and message.
There is need to convince that small but decisive Indian Guyanese independent group to come back—an almost impossible task. That was the AFC constituency that it easily surrendered. My “padnas,” Nagamootoo and Ramjattan preferred the trappings of high power than the activism on the ground, the policy interventions and the independent praxis within the coalition that were needed to hold that group. They dropped that ball like hot potato.
You were never going to hold that group by shying away from going into the sugar communities and rapping to them about sugar reform. You were never going to keep them by endorsing every ugly move of the PNC wing of the coalition. You were never going to keep them by avoiding serious groundings on race and racial solidarity in a frank and open way. There was need to talk to and nurture the independent Indian Guyanese youth who are not “biologically” PPP.
There is need to convince Amerindians who voted for the coalition to stay the course. But that doesn’t look good either. There is no effective Amerindian-grounded party or leadership within the coalition that is equipped to do that kind of work. The new Amerindian party is going to split the anti-PPP Amerindian vote.
For reasons which we would never discuss in polite company, any political entity perceived as African Guyanese would always have the hardest time holding the political loyalty of that section of the electorate. That is why the Coalition dropped the ball when it projected itself as PNC and allowed itself to frame as such. A PNC-led coalition was the sure way to lose your Indian Guyanese and Amerindian constituencies.
Finally, there is need to convince African Guyanese independents to give the coalition another look. This group is not going to be swayed by anti-Jagdeo rhetoric or a few infrastructural improvements. Much of this group is young and they cut across socio-economic class. They exist among vendors, teachers, public servants, students, entrepreneurs, the unemployed and the Rastas. They understand the Black condition and knew exactly what they wanted this government to do in that regard.
They were cynical about politics prior to the rise of APNU and the Coalition, and they were the first to jump ship in the post-2015 period. They do not get their political nourishment from PNC orthodoxy. They are open to Power Sharing and Multi-ethnicity. To win them back you have to get into their minds and you have to come good. They are not going PPP, but as they have shown in the past—check the WPA and the AFC rise to prominence—they are open to new possibilities.
More of Dr. Hinds ‘writings and commentaries can be found on his YouTube Channel Hinds’ Sight: Dr. David Hinds’ Guyana-Caribbean Politics and on his website www.guyanacaribbeanpolitics.news. Send comments to [email protected]
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