I was travelling in David Hinds’ car on our return from a private function (see my column of Monday, July 22, 2019, captioned “David Hinds and I turned a white shade of pale last Saturday”) up the East Coast, when I asked him to turn into Buxton for me to buy some cheese flaps from Benjamin’s Bakery on Church of God Road.
Adrian Benjamin, a personal friend, grew up in the baking business and in my estimation makes the most delectable cheese flaps in the entire territory of Guyana. I never pass Buxton without buying Adrian’s products. As we turned into Buxton from the railway embankment, a group of young men, about ten of them, were liming on the line top. They came up to the car and engaged us. They were all disappointed in the shape of governance and enquired why David and I don’t form our own political party.
This was in Buxton, where opposition strength is very low. That incident is a strong indication that the election result is not easily predictable. I believe there is a gap between the support for the PPP and the PNC that will determine which of the two gets closer to fifty-one percent. I see a minority presidency, but the question is who it will go to. The emanation of the boys in Buxton tells a big story.
Who or what is this electoral space that lies between the electoral rampart of the PPP and PNC? It has several dimensions. First, there is Lenox Shuman’s party that will definitely appeal to Amerindians. Could Shuman collect Amerindian ballots that could diminish the numbers both PPP and PNC get from that constituency? For me, what is uncertain are the numbers, but I can see Shuman getting at least one seat.
Secondly, there is the Indian vote, which led to a PPP minority parliament in 2011 and a defeat in 2015. It is the 2015 defeat that needs profound reflections. The PPP lost Region 8 parliamentary seat by one ballot and the general election by less than 5,000 votes. Those figures can only worsen, based on migration figures among Indians. But with the young population that Guyana has, it means that those who left since 2015 would not create a complete void, because others have come of voting age since 2015.
My guess is that based on the APNU+AFC performance, the percentage in 2011 and 2015 that went to the AFC will return to the PPP. This is a frightening prospect for the PNC leadership. It knows that in 2019, the AFC cannot retain its 2011 and 2015 showing. To win the election, APNU+AFC has to make up for that loss. How can it? I don’t think it can. Here is why.
Even if there is a percentage of Indians who cannot bring themselves to vote for the PPP, including this columnist, they will either abstain or offer their ballots to a smaller party, but the chagrin is too deep for them to vote again for the AFC. It is no exaggeration to say that there is more bitterness among those who voted for the AFC than among those who are disappointed with the performance of the PNC.
I would go so far as to say that if the AFC contests by itself, it cannot get a parliamentary seat. I ask the honest question – from which part of Guyana where Africans and Indians live, are people going to go out and vote for the AFC?
Thirdly, there is that percentage of African voters who think that their leadership failed them, and they will show little enthusiasm for the coalition magic. For them the magic is gone. It didn’t work out for them. One gets a sense that this is what David Hinds is telling the PNC the past two weeks in his columns, and in a recent letter to this newspaper. This is reflected in what the Buxton youths told David and me. This is reflected in the battle at UG over the Vice Chancellor’s contract.
Thirdly, Guyana has been in election mode since the no-confidence motion was upheld by the Chief Justice. The attitude, behaviour and postures of the PNC and the AFC since then have not endeared an undecided section of the voters to them. Each day that passes and the country waits to hear the election date, the ruling regime says and does things that make one feel that it is not willing to observe the constitution and play by the rules.
Finally, these failings of APNU+AFC will not translate into a win for the PPP. The results will be extremely close.
( The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessary reflect the opinions of this newspaper)
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