There were three categories of voters in 2015. This may be reduced to two in 2020, even though there may be a plausible showing for smaller parties. In 2015, we saw the tradition continue – Indians voted PPP, African voted PNC.
The PPP lost the contest in Region 8 by one vote. The PPP lost the national election by less than 5000 ballots. The PPP received the traditional Indian vote, with some numbers from Amerindians and some from the mixed race group.
The PNC benefitted from a slight increase in the turnout in Georgetown (which was expected to be much higher than in 2011; it was just three percent more). Like the PPP, it was the PNC that was a recipient of the race instinct. But there was a third category of voters who took the APNU+AFC coalition over the line, even though the difference with the PPP was a coat of varnish. These were people who marked their X specifically for the AFC.
This third category that chose the AFC was made of four types of attitudes. First, in places like Linden, African Guyanese saw healthy differences between the AFC and the PNC. Some names that brought this about included Nigel Hughes, Raphael Trotman and others, that may include Forbes Burnham’s son-in-law, Richard Van West Charles. There were pockets of African Guyanese in the entire country, particularly Georgetown, that viewed the AFC through positive lenses.
The second attitude was reflected in the young people across the racial divide, particularly the educated ones who saw the AFC as the priceless balance between all that they grew up with – the big and bad PPP and PNC.
The third make-up was the mixed race sector. They embodied the same chagrin the youths had. They saw themselves as neither Indians nor Africans, and felt they could more identify with the AFC.
The fourth attitude gave the AFC its largest bloc of votes in 2015. It came from Indians around Guyana. But GECOM results showed there was an upsetting decrease in votes in Indian areas for APNU+AFC, which proved that Indians wanted the AFC to remain the third independent force, and be the balance, just as the youths saw them. But still, it was that decreased percentage of Indian ballots that took the APNU+AFC coalition over the line.
The third category has disappeared. What is likely to happen in 2020? Indians and Africans will continue to mark their X as they have traditionally done. But the PNC as the major force in the APNU-AFC formation is facing a frightening prospect. The third category is gone from the AFC.
Let’s analyze these four attitudes since 2015. The youths have become completely disillusioned with the AFC. They feel the AFC’s third way has been dissolved. They will either go back to the PPP and PNC or not vote at all. ANUG is likely to get some of their ballots.
The African Guyanese from Linden and Regions 5 and 6 that embraced the AFC have gone over to the PNC. They felt the AFC came and went. The mixed race feels the same way as the youths – the AFC stirred their imagination, but the AFC is a thing of the past. They will mark their papers either for the PPP or APNU.
It is that precious number, however small, that the AFC got from Indians in 2015, that is impossible to be regained in 2020. This particular compartment literally hates the AFC. In my encounters with Indians, I say with profound honesty, I have not met one who voted for the AFC in 2015 that will vote for the AFC again. This is what I call a shock to the system.
The political observers, the analysts, the journalists, civil society, the PNC, the PPP and the AFC itself, know that the AFC’s standing in politics has collapsed. This country knows that the AFC of 2006, 2011 and 2015 no longer exists. How does this impact on the election results?
You do not need a university degree in political studies to see the electoral formidability facing the PNC with the loss of the AFC’s standing and the optimism is it engendering in the PPP. Let’s put it in very simple terms. The PPP lost by less than 5000 votes in 2015. They will get that back and more from former AFC Indian supporters, even if Lenox Shuman pulls Amerindian votes from the PPP. The PNC needs about 20,000 votes that went for the AFC in 2015 to take them over the line. Those ballots are not there, plus Shuman may steal some Amerindian votes from the PNC. The election result is a nightmare facing the PNC.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper)