Whenever a political party loses an election, there are always implications for the leaders of that party. The APNU and the AFC have lost not only the general and regional elections of 2020 but they have also been defeated in the two previous local government elections held in 2016 and 2018.
The leaders of the PNCR and the AFC therefore recognize that having lost three successive elections, all to the PPPC, that there is bound to be a political fallout. This is not unique to Guyana; it happens all around the world. When a party loses an election, much less three in a row, the supporters of that party demand changes to the leadership.
The typical response to such demands is the creation of political distractions. This is what is taking place right now within the PNCR and the AFC. There are attempts to blame the PPPC for the Coalition’s loss of power. In fact, the Coalition has concocted a tale that the PPPC rigged the elections. This is the main distraction.
Heightening an external threat is used to distract from an internal problem. By making the PPPC the villain, the APNU and AFC are hoping to smother internal dissent within their parties.
A second tactic, which is used to suppress the demands for new leadership, is to put in place a succession plan. Desmond Hoyte lost three successive elections to the PPPC in 1992, 1997 and 2001. There were questions raised about his leadership and some of the persons from the business class with whom he consorted. But he waited out these mini-revolts.
But he also did something else. He talked about putting in place a succession plan. And this appeased those who wanted to see him removed. But for Hoyte, it was just a political ploy which he engineered in response to the internal threats to his throne.
There are leaders of both the AFC and the PNCR who want to continue on in the leadership of their political parties, despite the loss of three successive elections under that leadership. And so they are hoping that their present orchestrations would allow them to remain in the leadership.
But some of them have not catered for COVID-19 and its impact on political activity. COVID-19 is not going to disappear completely. It is going to dissipate but not disappear. The virus will remain around and always be a threat.
The groups which are most threatened by this virus are the elderly and those with underlying health conditions. This means that sickness and age are now high-risk factors for the disease and as a consequence makes them now a political liability.
Political activity cannot be effectively carried out through social distancing alone. You cannot run a country exclusively by social distancing. Politicians have to go out and meet their constituents; they have to meet people; they have rub shoulders with the masses. They have to move around and see conditions first-hand. This places politicians who are elderly and who have underlying conditions at a distinct disadvantage.
COVID-19 has already begun to change our politics. Young people, fitter and stronger, will have to assume greater leadership, at least over the short-term.
Many of the leaders of the APNU and the AFC are old and have underlying conditions. How will they cope with the demands of political work, especially in Opposition?
There are persons who recognize what is likely to happen and they have begun to throw their hats in the ring for leadership of the PNCR and the AFC. Persons are coming out of the proverbial woodwork and discreetly making their case for leadership.
There are persons who played no role in the election campaign of the PNCR and the AFC; they were missing in action. But now that there is a possibility of them assuming leadership of either of the parties, they are making their pitch.
And how will they do this? They will assume the posture of an opposition politician. They will attack the PPPC. They will claim that the leaders of the PPPC are unfit. They will become more militant than the existing leadership and sometimes more extremist. This is how they will hope to build popular support.
Hoyte once warned against these political opportunists. He said they could not be saved from even their own ignorance. Look out for the new political opportunists who are aiming to fill the political vacuum emerging within the PNCR and the AFC.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.)
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