The race is now on the homestretch. Voters seem to be energized and can’t wait to get past March 2 because the country (their lives) has been dogged by the political uncertainty of the last fourteen months. Which party ran the better campaign (between the two giants – PPP and APNU led coalition) to prevail on Monday? (The smaller parties tried but could not compete with resources and what some analysts describe as bussed in or rented crowds at rallies). Both larger parties ran fantastic campaigns. Their paid handlers and strategists and campaigner managers deserve credit. It is perhaps the best campaign in Guyana’s political history. It is also the most expensive campaign in the country’s history. It is hard to say which campaign was better – it depends on which side one supports. But one side has an advantage based on resources.
Kudos to the campaign main spokesperson, manager, and planner of the coalition and the PPP – Joe Harmon and Bharrat Jagdeo respectively – for a campaign well done and managed! Whichever side wins, it is the campaign manager, cum strategist, cum organizer who is responsible for that victory. Without Harmon and Jagdeo, both sides would have performed miserably. Harmon managed President David Granger’s programme and speeches well. Harmon ran a creative campaign to bring back traditional supporters. Jagdeo, charismatic as usual, has been a master strategist and he organized challenger Irfaan Ali extremely well. Jagdeo is praised for running a violence free and positive campaign. Harmon’s campaign tried to ridicule the other side. Jagdeo is enormously popular in his base and so is Granger in his.
Overall, there was a coherence of messages from each side, and the messages were very good, to the point, and effective. Their advertising were short and some quite entertaining. Some sought to deceive and some were not truthful. (But what does one expect? It is all propaganda). It is hard to say which side had or has the advantage based on the campaign. (In terms of numbers, that is a different ball game. Whichever side registered more voters will win.)
Will the party that ran the best (better) campaign be the one in power after the election? That is a hard question! People don’t vote on issues or on the campaign message or advertisements. They vote on party alignment. There is a small percentage of swing voters and they may not vote for either major party. The swing voters may gravitate towards the smaller parties hoping they can hold the balance of power in the new parliament. The small parties also ran good clean campaigns. They tried to convince voters with their messages. But they are at a disadvantage – limited resources and virtually no press coverage. They just can’t compete against the billions of dollars spent by the two larger parties. Even GECOM hardly bothered with giving them time to address their issues. In the end, four of the small parties are irrelevant with no impact on voters’ minds. Three of them are making a play for a seat.
A lot is at stake in this election — control of oil wealth and both sides want to manage it. And both sides did their best to motivate their bases and floating voters to vote for them with varied enticements. Each side has its manifesto that has not given either side an advantage. People don’t pay attention to it. Few actually read it.
In terms of ads, PPP highlights issues of the ruling coalition and the comment “We will fix it”, comes across as good. It resonates. The coalition’s theme of ‘joining us (shared governance) to develop the country’ also comes across as good and appealing.
A major highlight is the concert by APNU opening its campaign – perhaps the largest crowd in Guyana’s history for an election rally. But the PPP fought back with massive rallies and entertainment at Albion and Stewartville. Another high point in the campaign is that the PPP’s Irfaan Ali showed matured leadership surprising even his worst critics. He has come across quite well with terrific speeches of persuasion. He has talent. He knows the issue and shows he is ready for the presidency. On APNU side, for a man who battled cancer, Granger has been energetic and still attracts huge crowds.
The nadir of this campaign is the destruction of party flags and the unedifying row in the final days of the campaign in closing down (reducing) polling places that seem to primarily hurt one party. Some claim that the voters list was also tampered with. Would those acts have any political impact on the election? These are perhaps the worst acts in Guyana’s election history. Another low point in the campaign is the beating up of opposition supporters that was carried out by a few rebels who did it on their own.
Some rate the campaign as a draw. One side will win. The coalition and PPP have Joe Harmon and Bharrat Jagdeo to thank respectively. May the best side win!
Vishnu Bisram, PhD
Apr 05, 2020This year-one review is based on the 10 Point ‘Cricket First Plan’ that was the foundation of the Ricky Skerritt-Dr Kishore Shallow 2019 election campaign. In March 2019, he was elected as the...
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