Kaieteur News – All former ruling parties that find themselves on the Opposition benches are forced to adopt distinct strategies to challenge the ruling government, and the People’s National Congress/Reform (PNC/R) is no exception. Its approach to Opposition is well-defined, and its tactics has become unchanging, making it relatively predictable.
The three main tactics employed by the PNCR when in Opposition are: the use of the race card, claims of ethnic economic marginalization, and the proliferation of extremist talk show and social media activists who engage in anti-government extremist vitriol.
One of the most prominent and recurrent tactics employed by the PNC/R when in Opposition is playing the race card. This strategy involves attempting to stoke racial antagonism in order to undermine the government in power, thereby keeping the country divided. This tactic is deployed in the hope of regaining political relevance. To achieve this, the PNC/R often seizes upon incidents and attempts to spin them into racially charged narratives.
An example of this tactic can be traced back to the aftermath of the 1992 elections when Desmond Hoyte, the PNC/R’s candidate, lost. The party used a land dispute in Rosinante, a village, to try to incite racial animosity. Although this attempt did not succeed, it laid the foundation for labeling the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) government as discriminatory against Africans.
In the aftermath of the 2020 elections, the APNU capitalized on a horrific incident on the West Coast Berbice to foment racial tension. This attempt fizzled after it was clear that the protests over the deaths of the two teenagers were being manipulated to create political instability.
Soon after the government began to distribute the COVID-19 cash grant, some overseas-based PNC/R supporters falsely claimed that only PPP/C supporters were receiving cash grants. Although no evidence of this was provided, it was a means of further perpetuating the narrative of racial discrimination.
No evidence was also provided to establish that some 2,000 public servants were dismissed. This unsubstantiated allegation was cited as an example of racial discrimination being practiced by the PPPC government.
Public servants typically enjoy security of tenure and can only be dismissed by the independent Public Service Commission. Thus, the argument that these terminations are race-based is flawed, as they could be a result of political appointments that lack security of tenure. Political appointees on the other hand do not enjoy such security of tenure and therefore are expected to resign upon accession of a new party to government.
However, these facts do not deter the PNC/R from making claims of racial discrimination. Such claims are a recurrent rallying cry used to mobilize its supporters and regain political credibility. It also serves the purpose of seeking international attention and sympathy.
Another tactic from the PNC/R’s playbook, particularly propagated by its sidekicks in the trade union movement, revolves around alleging ethnic economic marginalization. This claim is often rooted in the perceived preference given to the Indian-dominated sugar industry over the African-dominated bauxite industry.
Contrary to this assertion, the facts do not support it. Under PPP/C governments, the struggling bauxite industry received substantial support from the State for more than a decade. Region 10, which is predominantly African, has received a higher degree of support on a per capita basis than many other regions.
Additionally, a comprehensive income and expenditure survey revealed that there is greater income and consumption inequality among Indians than Africans. It also highlighted that more Indians lived in poverty than Africans, dispelling the notion of ethnic economic marginalization.
The third tactic in the PNC/R’s playbook involves the rise of extremist talk show hosts and social media activists whenever the PPP/C is in office. These individuals disseminate divisive rhetoric and unsubstantiated claims on a regular basis, relying on sweeping generalizations and vitriol to advance their agendas. They have garnered a substantial following of supporters who tune in for their daily dose of inflammatory medicine.
This tactic serves to create an atmosphere of discord and discontent in the country, making it challenging for the ruling government to govern effectively. It also contributes to the polarization of society, further deepening divisions along ethnic lines.
The PNCR has a predictable playbook of Opposition strategies that they employ when out of power. These strategies may be effective in mobilizing their base and maintaining their relevance, but are often based on contrived facts.
The PNCR’s playbook however reveals a more disturbing feature: the failure of the one the country’s leading mass-based parties to offer itself as a viable alternative to government; an also failure to expose corruption within the government; and a tendency to act in a sectarian manner when in Opposition.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and beliefs of this newspaper and its affiliates.)
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