Nov 27, 2021 Letters
November 28, 2021 will mark the tenth anniversary of the General and Regional elections that resulted in the PPP/C forming a minority government.
For that election, the PPP/C Presidential candidate was Donald Ramotar with Samuel Hinds as Prime Ministerial candidate. The 2011 election was held after twelve years of the Jagdeo administration. Of a total number of 346,717 votes cast, the PPP/C won 166,340 or 49.2% with 32 seats. The APNU+AFC won 139,678 or 40.8% of the votes with 26 seats while the AFC won 35,333 votes or 19.3% with 7 seats
The PPP/C’s electoral fortunes had slipped by approximately 5,265 votes. The results showed that while the PPP/C remained the single largest party in the National Assembly with 32 seats, it nevertheless lost control of the parliament because the combined APNU+AFC with 26 plus 7 seats, took control of the sixty-five seat National Assembly. However, the PPP/C remained in control of the Executive.
It was the first time in Guyana’s and the PPP’s electoral history that such a configuration had emerged in the National Assembly resulting ipso facto in the establishment of a minority PPP/C government. Suffice it to say that way back in the early 1990’s, Cheddi Jagan, then PPP General Secretary, had opened a debate at the leadership level of the party warning about the prospects of the PPP experiencing such an outcome in the light of the impending 1992 election and future elections.
Little did Dr. Jagan know at that time, that such an eventuality would come to pass due to Ramjattan’s and Nagamootoo’s departure from the PPP, their establishment of a political party and then entering into a big tent coalition led by the PNC.
PPP watchers claimed that the party’s slippage was due to a combination of factors including, insufficient political work on the ground, complacency, disconnect with party supporters in some traditional areas, lack of visibility of party leaders, penetration of the AFC into PPP strongholds using anti-PPP sentiments and baiting sugar workers with unrealistic promises, allegations of corruption as well as conventional challenges faced by incumbents.
Generally, the mood in the country was characterised by a rise in the subjective factors favourable to the opposition. Those factors were fueled by dissatisfaction with the PPP/C’s delivery of services on the ground even though public spending had increased significantly.
Ramotar’s candidature came at a difficult time for the party so much so that some were of the view that had any other party leader been chosen as the PPP/C’s Presidential Candidate for that particular election, they would have probably suffered a similar fate.
The Ramotar presidency was characterised by APNU+AFC inspired protest demonstrations, betrayal by the parliamentary opposition of commitments made to government, blocking big developmental projects, as well as PPP/C motions and bills in the National Assembly, cutting national budgets, moving a no-confidence motion against a sitting minister, preventing him from presenting motions or bills and from speaking in the National Assembly.
Persistent attacks by sections of the media on issues such as corruption, crime, project implementation and local government elections was the order of the day. The ABC&E members of the diplomatic corps joined the bandwagon objectively contributing to the destabilising efforts by the political opposition.
Were the 2011 free and fair? Who knows? We are not going to magically get beyond the events before and after the 2011 election by discussing it less or not at all. Having regard to the fact that the PPP never lost a free and fair election, and knowing the history of the PNC as regards elections, it is not unreasonable to conclude that, compared to the blatant rigging that took place at previous elections, efforts must have been exerted to perpetrate a more sophisticated form of rigging for the 2011 election.
In other words, there might be ‘more in the mortar than on the pestle’ particularly is respect to data reflected on the Statements of Poll for the 2011 elections. That data remains secured in ballot boxes stored in containers at GECOM.
The PPP/C had challenged the Region Four vote count for the 2011 elections but eventually called off the exercise principally on the ground that the Returning Officer could not be found despite several efforts. The party did not want to facilitate any undue delay in the announcement of the results. The lesson learnt from the November 28, 2011 and future elections is that we must never take democracy for granted nor should we place unquestionable trust in the electoral machinery and those who control it.
The 2011 election taught us that we should never adopt the position that there’s nothing there to see so let’s move along. According to a US House Representative; ‘Memories fade but from time to time, it must be refreshed’. At the same time, we must guard against being trapped in an echo-chamber of our own making.
While we continue to put in place laws and regulations to prevent the occurrence and/or reoccurrence of electoral fraud, at the same time, we should bear in mind that, “A government designed to check and balance itself is both fragile and resilient’’.
-Joe Biden (at his swearing in ceremony).
Clement J. Rohee
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