Sep 27, 2023 Letters
There is overwhelming support for party internal elections in the Opposition PNC. Almost every supporter (94%) of the Opposition PNC want their party to hold a Congress (and internal executive elections) as soon as possible. The poll also revealed that if general elections were held now, the ruling PPP will defeat the PNC-led APNU+AFC coalition under current leadership. These are two of several findings of an opinion poll conducted in mid-August by this writer for NACTA.
The PNC normally holds Congress and internal party elections bi-annually (every two years). The last intra-party election (Congress) was held in December 2021 in which Aubrey Norton won the leadership, allowing him to become Opposition Leader. Internal party elections are due by year end.
The PNC suffered a humiliating defeat at last June’s local government elections, failing to contest in some areas that were its traditional strongholds. The LGE saw unprecedented low voter turnout – an expression of a growing lack of interest in elections and politics in general among the population as voters, especially the middle class and those at the lower end, have been struggling to make ends meet since the onset of pandemic over three years ago. The disinterest in politics and the June elections took a severe toll on the PNC causing it to lose several traditional seats and NDCs.
There has been growing discontent for the PNC leadership since the controversial 2020 general election resulting in decline in electoral support. The loss of support for PNC has continued precipitously since the June 2023 local election. Support is rapidly shrinking and the trend seems irreversible under the current official opposition dispensation.
A snap opinion poll conducted right after the June LGE, found that almost every voter across the nation, supporters of all parties, some 81% with 14% not expressing an opinion,. urged that the PNC hold an early party Congress to re-validate or replace its leadership because of the poor performance of the party. The PNC ran a low keyed, unimpressive campaign unlike the LGEs in 2016 and 2018 when the coalition ran vigorous campaigns.
In the August poll, the PNC led APNU, under Aubrey Norton’s leadership, is projected to go down to defeat to the incumbent PPP. The preceding June poll, also conducted by this writer for NACTA, found a similar trend with the PNC led APNU losing support to the PPP and minor parties. Supporters of the PNC and other parties say the Opposition is uninspiring, very weak, lack a vision and foundering.
On the basis of current trends as determined by the latest opinion poll, the PNC (APNU) is projected to lose up to five seats, putting it back in the position it was in 2011. However, if there is new dynamic credible visionary leadership, the PNC could stop its political hemorrhaging and reverse losses, putting up a competitive fight against the ruling party. The PNC is “unelectable” in its present state and changes at leadership level are needed, according to almost everyone interviewed.
The names being bandied about to replace Norton for PNC (APNU) leadership in the next Congress are Senior Counsel Roysdale Forde, Amanza Walton-Desir, and Volda Lawrence, among others. The latter two, however, are struggling for traction among non-PNC supporters required to win an election. Forde came across as a favorite with overwhelming support among Guyanese of all ethnicities.
Supporters of both major parties say that intra-party democracy is essential for leadership accountability and discipline and good governance, and they call on the PNC to immediately hold a Congress in line with its constitution to discuss challenges and hold executive elections that are due by December.
Separately, the August poll found that the incumbent PPP would retain power if a general election were to be called today, widening its advantage over the opposition APNU+AFC coalition. The PPP and President Ali are preferred over the opposition PNC under Norton’s Presidential candidacy which is not viewed as a viable alternative. Last June survey revealed similar findings with Norton trailing incumbent Ali in popularity ratings by two to one.
The PNC in the public view is rattled with internal division and lacks effective leadership to bring anti-PPP forces to coalesce ahead of a general election due in 2025, and the PPP remains on course to retain government in 2025 if this remains unchanged. Almost everyone interviewed, members, supporters, and the public at large said the PNC led APNU was heading for defeat.
The latest survey found that the PPP has retained most of its base and has been strengthening its influence over Opposition demographic supporters, including young voters and professionals.
The August survey involved interviews with 470 adults who reflected the demographics of the population. Supporters of the PNC were filtered out in order to obtain their views on the state of affairs of their party.
Dr. Vishnu Bisram
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