|The election results provide a great opportunity for the parties to work together in the national interest
By Harry Thakur Hergash
Guyana Journal, December 2011
Over the years Indian-Guyanese have been pummeled by many writers and, in particular, Kaieteur News columnist, Freddie Kissoon, for voting for the PPP. The claim has been that Indian-Guyanese, unlike African-Guyanese, vote solidly on the basis of race thereby keeping the PPP in power. Well, the recent national election has shown conclusively that Indian-Guyanese are not the only ones who vote on the basis of race; so now there is no fig leaf for these writers to hide behind. Interestingly, Mr. Kissoon's fellow picketer against the previous PPP government, Mr. Lincoln Lewis, in a letter in the December 5 issue of the Stabroek News ('Ethnicity remains a major factor in elections'), notes that “the majority of the electorate has leaned heavily for and in favor of the candidate based on their racial identity.”
Whether one agrees with this pattern of voting or not, it is a reality which must be accepted and dealt with by the politicians, so that all Guyanese can feel safe and secure, believe that their votes have an impact on decision-making in government, and see that national resources are used for the benefit of all. In my view, the election results provide a great opportunity for the PPP, the APNU and the AFC, to work together in the national interest. Voters have placed these parties on probation and will be monitoring closely their performance over the months and years ahead, assuming there is no premature election brought about by the government or opposition parties.
Considering this most recent confirmation of the long-established pattern of voting along racial lines by both major race groups, I wish to look at the implications for the three parties in and out of parliament in the interim until the next election.
For the PPP, first and foremost, it means an acceptance of the fact that the PPP can no longer arrogantly assume it will have a monopoly on the support on Indian-Guyanese, irrespective of its record and the behavior of its leaders. Thus, in parliament the government can no longer consider itself the sole decider of national interest. It must demonstrate a genuine willingness to make compromises and to work in the national interest with both or at least one of the other parties. And at the party level it must work strenuously to restore its credibility with its traditional supporters. It will have to mend fences with sugar workers who felt betrayed by the threat to decertify GAWU, the union that has been the backbone of PPP support throughout the years. As well, priority must be given to concerns over personal safety and security, a problem facing all Guyanese but one that has greater resonance among Indian-Guyanese because of their greater loss of life and property to banditry, and to the issue of corruption in government which is seen by many as a betrayal of the values of the founder of the party. Last but not least is the matter of transparency in the party. Had the party's presidential candidate been determined in an open, democratic fashion, the outcome of the recent elections might have been different and the party less splintered.
For APNU, Mr. Granger needs to quickly assert his leadership and keep his members in line. There is no doubt that his personality, army background, and key backers have helped in improving this party's performance over the previous PNC which was subsumed. However, if he could not take the presidency from the PPP which has been in power for nineteen years with many negatives in its track record, it is difficult to see, especially in light of the voting pattern, how APNU or the PNC can fare better in the future without a fully committed strategy to woo Indian-Guyanese. Mr. Robert Corbin's refusal to bring out his PNC supporters on the streets of Georgetown to confront the previous PPP government has been criticized by many.
However, by not taking to the streets and avoiding culpability for any violence that may have resulted, either caused by his supporters or mischief-makers, he created the environment for the AFC to be the beneficiary of disenchanted PPP supporters. The challenge now is for APNU/PNC to lure those and other PPP supporters to its fold.
In the next parliament, the AFC will be the kingmaker and this party will have a delicate balancing act to perform. It is now generally accepted that the PNC supporters it attracted in 2006 went to APNU in 2011. This party must now be cognizant of its source of support and act accordingly. For starters, Mr. Moses Nagamootoo, in an article captioned “AFC should be given Speaker of the House post on principle Nagamootoo” in the Sunday Stabroek of December 25, has put forward the case convincingly why he should be the next speaker of parliament. To the former PPP supporters who crossed over to the AFC, this will be the first test to see where the AFC stands. After all, Mr. Nagamootoo brought a large contingent of former PPP supporters to the AFC. During the life of the next parliament any tilting one way or the other will be closely watched and how well the balancing act is performed will likely determine the fate of this party in the next election.
Expectations for the 2011 National Elections in Guyana