It can be argued that the single most important and incontrovertible development in recent Guyanese political history has been the precipitous decline of the oldest political party in Guyana, the PPP/C.
Its current leader, Mr. Bharrat Jagdeo, began his Presidency, in 2001, with 53% of the vote and a 7-seat advantage over the PNC/R which he increased, in 2006, to 54.6% and a 9-seat advantage over the PNC/R and AFC combined, which was the last time the PPP/C held an overall parliamentary majority.
The PPP/C was a minority in 2011 (48.6% of the vote and 32 seats in the National Assembly), and in 2015 (49.2% and 32 seats) ever since the AFC entered the political derby and the PNC/R dramatically advanced the concept and practice of coalition and cohesive politics with the formation of APNU and APNU+AFC.
This would seem to suggest serious failures on the part of the PPP/C in government which precipitated the loss of support from significant sections of its base, diminished appeal to crossover voters from its main opposition, and lack of attractiveness and enthusiasm from ethnic minorities which coincided with the emergence of the coalition/cohesion ethos of APNU+AFC.
I would suggest that two factors in particular, are responsible for the decline of the PPP/C:
1) Demographic changes (migration and the growth in other ethnicities) have resulted in the loss of East Indian numerical superiority and the decline of its electoral strength which was compounded by internal conflicts which led to the loss of several members and the formation of other, competing political parties like AFC and ANUG and the decline in its economic and industrial base, as sugar lost its dominant position in the economy.
2) Simultaneously, its main political rival, the PNC/R, was able to engage in regenerative and coalition-building activities, which catapulted them into office, in 2015, after 23 years in declining opposition.
While demographic changes are undoubtedly significant, I believe that the greater significance was the introduction of the electoral system in 2001 and the regional allocation of more than one-third (25/65) of the seats in the National Assembly, which has given inordinate influence to hinterland regions which are mostly populated by indigenous peoples to whom the main parties must appeal in order to secure victory at the polls.
APNU+AFC’s strategy of cohesion and inclusive government, its list of candidates and leadership, and its visionary and hugely successful hinterland development programme and Decade of Development Strategy is a clear indication of its welcoming recognition and acceptance of this reality.
On the other hand, the PPP/C’s election campaign, which seems wed to the myth of its invincibility based on ethnic dominance is divorced from reality. The constant harping on the unsubstantiated claims that it was cheated at the last election; that it was cheated in every election; that it lost and that it will be cheated again, while it may appease its base, fails to recognise the necessity of appealing to a wider constituency, and does not provide a path to electoral victory.
It is antiquated, foolhardy and stubborn, and guaranteed to invite defeat in future elections. It is this realisation and fear, which has caused the PPP/C to favour a strategy of obstruction and destabilisation, as exemplified by the no confidence vote and its aftermath.
Data from the 2015 General and Regional elections would seem to indicate that a reliance on East Indian ethnic dominance is misplaced and may be more accurate in the reverse. It shows that approximately 250,000 persons voted in Regions 2, 3, 5 and 6 (presumably East Indian-dominant) and delivered 6 of 10 regional seats to the PPP/C while over 286,000 persons voted in Regions 4 and 10 (presumably African dominated) and delivered 6 of 9 seats to APNU+AFC; almost 21,000 persons voted in the hinterland regions 1, 7, 8 and 9 and split 6 seats between the PPP/C and APNU+AFC.
It is very clear that in order for the PPP/C to secure victory at the upcoming polls, it must first retain the support it previously held and make tremendous, almost unheard of, advances in the hinterland regions, which it continually failed to do while in government for 23 years, and neither its campaign platform and leading candidates have demonstrated the ability and vision to accomplish this.
With regard to its record in office, articulated vision, and quality and diversity of its leadership and candidates, APNU+AFC has demonstrated its unquestionable superiority, and I predict, will win these elections by a landslide in a demonstrably free and fair election.
Shakespeare once opined that “there is a tide in the affairs of men, which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune”, and also advised to “let go thy hold of the wheel that runs down the hill, but the one that goes uphill, let it take thee after”.
I believe that the tide resides with David Granger and the coalition that he leads.
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