Jan 16, 2020 Letters
A certain section of the population, generally sympathetic to the PPP/C, is of the opinion and belief that the PNC, in all of its manifestations, has never won, and can never win, a free and fair election in Guyana. Their main justification for this position, according to Mike Persaud, is that “the vast majority of the electorate (at least 94%) votes on the basis of race” and that “in all Free and fair Elections (1964 and post 1992), PNC has always polled between 40 and 42.3%, because that is the precise population of African vote that exists in Guyana”. I, on the other hand, am of a different opinion and belief. In the first place, I do not accept and consider it too simplistic and opportunistic to argue that the vast majority of Guyanese vote on the basis of race and would not support any political party which organizes and campaigns on that basis. Also, it is, by no means, clear which ethnicities represent the remaining 6% of the population and which party it is assumed the Amerindians, Chinese, Portuguese, Mixed Race and others vote for.
Historically, the two mass-based political parties – PPP and PNC – organized and located in different parts of the country and among different sections of the population, as do political parties everywhere. The PNC organized largely in the urban centres, among the middle and professional classes and urban-based labour organizations and among Christian and Afro-centric cultural organizations. The PPP, on the other hand, organized largely in rural communities along the coast and among rice farmers and sugar workers and the Hindu community. It would appear, and I believe, that the dominant organizing principle was socio-economic, cultural and ideological, and not explicitly racial. This is not to say that racial identity did not coincide with these interests and that politicians have not manipulated racial insecurities in furtherance of their ambitions.
Recent political history has witnessed the evolution of only one political party with regard to its organizing principles. The PNC has determined to engage in coalition building to enlarge its political base and to broaden its leadership and membership which led to its victory as APNU+AFC in the last elections. The PPP/C, however, has demonstrated its willingness to achieve power without a plurality and is confident with a policy of promoting ethnic voting which it assumes would result in a simple majority over its main rival. The PPP/C is so confident of the inevitable success of this strategy that it claims that only a rigged election could deny it.
The PPP/C’s confidence in this strategy is misplaced for the following reasons:
1. While it may be the case that Guyanese of East Indian ancestry constitute the single largest ethnic group, it is certainly not representative of the majority of the population and cannot, by itself, guarantee victory to the PPP/C.
2. Guyana’s electoral system allows for a party to win the Presidency with less than 50% of the vote and fewer than half of the seats in the National Assembly if three or more parties receive votes in the elections (Donald Ramotar was elected President in 2011 with 32 of 65 seats in the National Assembly and 48.6% of the vote). With 9 parties contesting the upcoming General and Regional elections the possibility of electing a President with a much smaller percentage of the vote is greatly enhanced, and, even with only two political parties contesting the elections, it is possible for the party with fewer overall votes or less than 50% to receive more seats in the National Assembly and win the Presidency.
Presumed ethnic numerical superiority and allegiance does not guarantee electoral success in a free and fair election. To suggest otherwise and to attribute its failure to “Machiavellian plans to rig or manipulate the elections” is intellectually dishonest and an attempt to excuse the many failures of the PPP/C. The formula for political success is simple and is applicable almost anywhere in the world and does not involve rigging or manipulation of any kind. It involves basically three characteristics – its organizing principle (broad-based vs. narrow), the quality and diversity of its candidates and leaders, and its vision and record of achievement in government. The APNU+AFC coalition is demonstrably superior in every regard and will, in my opinion, win the upcoming election by a landslide, sans rigging.
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