Extremely strange and unpredictable things happen in politics. No country is exempt. Don’t discount anything in politics. Voters are not easy to predict. My friend David Hinds sees a changed political environment that is currently hostile to recent political formations. He opined that they don’t stand a chance.
One of his main theses is that small parties are in trouble, because such entities thrive in circumstances where there is an aura of despondency among the supporters of the major parties, so newcomers squeak in. David went on to pontificate on the current strong ethnic and party polarization that makes it impossible for small parties to open up the door.
My disagreement with David is not boisterous, because there is a tiny amount of plausibility in his theorizing, but his dismissal of small parties vying for space in 2020 is not grounded in reality. First, I think the extensive and profound disappointment with how the APNU+AFC coalition turned out has in fact created an air of despondency among both PPP and PNC constituents.
People thought that with the PPP out of office and the PNC in office with the AFC being the independent force in government, Guyana’s future was assured. Now they see the future as either being shaped by the bad boy who was removed or the poor performer who wants to stay in. Out of this kind of thinking, they may look to people other than the two traditional rivals.
Secondly, I believe there is a message out there that needs to be harnessed by all of the small parties. It is that if you allow PPP or PNC to get back in, they will do the same things all over; it is better to make sure they don’t get a majority, and to make sure they can be checked and tamed.
This kind of message appeals to the younger generation and the younger generation is in the vast majority in Guyana’s population. This message needs a powerful engine to kick start the bandwagon. The engine is frenetic campaigning. How you present this text will decide how successful the small parties are. It will take talent and skills to get the narrative over to young voters. You have to convince them that the PPP was out of power for a long time, they were put back in, and Guyana was no better. The PNC was out of power for a long time and they got back in, and they prove no different to the PPP.
The sermon has to emphasize that the 21st century belongs to young minds that reject destructive politics based on race. How you paint that canvas is not going to be easy, but you have to put it on show. I believe the PPP and PNC have done enough damage to Guyana to convince the young mind that race has no place in Guyana’s future.
One issue that has to be massaged carefully and skillfully by third parties is the vexation of constitutional changes. The electorate must be shown that the PPP and PNC do not favour constitutional reconstruction, because they each feel they can win power on their own, and they want and love the unlimited power the constitution bestows on them.
The third parties have to convince the electorate that the only way for there to be constitutional progress, is for the PPP and PNC to be forced to the table, and that can only be done if they do not have a majority in the House.
Thirdly, small parties have to make themselves collectively bigger, or else they are going to be laughed at. Voters will say that they are wasting their ballot on six different parties that cannot come within a million miles of the traditional rivals. The newcomers will be taken more seriously if they unite on a single slate. Once they coalesce, the electorate will see them as posing a greater challenge, and may be inclined to give them their ballot.
Finally, in politics, names count. At one time in the West Indies, from the sixties onwards, we spoke about doctor politics. People wanted their politicians to be doctors. Don’t ever forget, the WPA became a viable force because the top of the hierarchy were all academic doctors.
I don’t think we should discount the newcomers, for they do have credible names in their midst. Guyanese are talking about ANUG, Shuman’s party, Ruel Johnson’s party, the Berbice entity and Badal’s recent formation, because of the largeness of the names involved. But prior to these groups, there are four other small parties whose leaders no one ever heard about. There is space for the credible newcomers.
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