The PNCR attempted a makeover after its devastating 2006 election defeat. This makeover created the façade of a democratic party willing to be more inclusive by entering into partnerships with other parties.
It was all a sham. There was nothing ever democratic about the PNC/R. Its plug for partnerships with other political parties was just a ruse to use those parties to gain political office.
The PNC, which had a notorious record of rigging elections from 1968-1985, had rebranded itself under Desmond Hoyte as the PNC/R. It again rebranded itself as the PNC/R1 to contest the 2006 elections.
Jagdeo dished out a sound thrashing to the party in the 2006 polls. As presidential candidate, he secured 54.7% of the votes, the highest percentage of votes ever and the largest electoral victory for the PPP/C ever.
Robert Corbin, the PNC/R1 G presidential candidate saw his party’s take a fall to under 35% of the total votes cast, the lowest ever since free and fair elections. The spoiler was the Alliance For Change, which secured just over 8% of the national vote, including more than 3,000 votes in the PNC/R’s stronghold of Linden.
After the crushing defeat, the PNC/R realized a number of things. First, it concluded that it could never win a free and fair election on its own. Second, it decided that it needed a new presidential candidate to further rebrand the party’s image. It also opted for a democratic mask and to attempt to put up a façade of a multi-party coalition.
The PNC/R’s search for a new leader led it to someone who was not known to be politically active within the party’s leadership. It opted for David Granger. He fit the bill as someone who was perceived as middle-class, intellectual and without any political baggage.
The party, however, also wanted to present itself as practising internal democracy. As such, it needed to have a competitive process of electing a leader. The PNC/R thus invented the process of having caucuses to elect a leader.
Granger was the choice of the leadership but he faced a formidable challenge from Carl Greenidge. A number of other candidates threw their hats in the ring. But the process was systemically rigged against them. The leadership had its poster boy and it also had control over most of the delegates. As such, the whole caucus exercise becomes window-dressing.
Granger and Greenidge squared off in the contest for leadership. It was a close race with Granger coming out victorious by the slimmest of margins. Within the PNC/R, there is a theory that the elections were rigged.
In support of this contention, it is pointed out that during the counting of the votes, when it was realized that Greenidge would win, a diversion was created. A gunshot rang out and in the ensuing melee, extra votes were put into the ballot boxes which allowed for Granger to win.
As is well known, the APNU did not win the 2011 elections. The AFC secured sufficient votes, however, to deny Donald Ramotar, a majority in the National Assembly. And the AFC held the balance of power.
The two parties cooperated in the National Assembly to frustrate the Ramotar presidency. They then joined forces as the APNU+AFC Coalition and successfully won the 2015 general and regional elections by less than 5,000 votes.
The PNC/R began to sideline its Coalition partners no sooner did it get its feet wet. Even the miniscule WPA complained that it was not being consulted and that the APNU was not meeting so that it could make an input.
The inclusive political approach was set aside. The PNC/R began its absolute domination of the government. Two examples show how emasculated were the other parties in the Coalition. The AFC could do nothing to prevent the instruction to have two columnists from the Guyana Chronicle removed. It could do nothing also to have one of its parliamentarians proceed with a private member’s Bill in support of decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana.
The AFC was treated like a flunkey. In the run-up to the 2020 elections, the PNC/R cut the number of seats, which was to be allocated to the AFC; it also tried to frustrate the AFC’s right to the prime ministerial candidate.
When the campaign started, Khemraj Ramjattan, was introduced as the Leader of the AFC and not as the prime ministerial candidate. After some protests, a concessionary announcement was made but the PNC/R still downplayed the prime ministerial candidate.
No one therefore should be surprised at the democratic unravelling, which took place after the close of polls on 2nd March, 2020. The PNC/R had long dropped its democratic mask and its approach to inclusive politics.
The makeover became a bedcover, which was discarded on 3rd March. And what was staring everyone was the re-birthing of a diabolic and dictatorial monster.
(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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