In Guyana it is generally felt that most of our voters fall into those two categories. Of course, our ethnic dynamics encourage those electoral behaviors. For example, during the era of ideological politics when the PPP was an avowed communist party, many Indian-Guyanese whose socio-religious outlook was at odds with the tenets of socialism were still fanatic PPP supporters.
As we approach the historic 2020 elections, we are again faced with the prospect of ethnicity influencing electoral choice. Despite sustained advocacy over the years against ethnic voting, it has persisted. In fact, there has been no country in the world that has been able to successfully erase ethnic voting patterns.
The more ethnically diverse the country is, the more pronounced the practice is. It is for that reason that some of us have turned our attention to finding governance mechanisms to accommodate ethnic voting patterns in our multi-ethnic society. Hence the advocacy of power sharing or shared governance.
Both major parties have over the decades been less than forthcoming in their embrace of the idea. While they pay lip service to it when in opposition, once they assume power, they find ways to avoid implementing it.
The PPP has gone one step further—they have now rejected it even in opposition. This is an interesting development. One of the outcomes of the PPP’s non-support of shared governance is that it has allowed the Coalition to studiously avoid pressing for it during its first term.
Critics of the Coalition’s inaction on this front must bear this in mind—there can be no meaningful shared governance without the PPP. But the PPP is simply not interested in a political solution along the lines of shared governance.
As we prepare to vote on March 2, we have to ask which of the two parties shows more inclination towards a political solution. The PPP has said to the African-Guyanese that it has no interest in co-governing with their party. African-Guyanese should instead go into the PPP.
The PPP has therefore closed the door on shared governance. And worse, Mr. Jagdeo has boasted that should the PPP win in March, they would hold power for the next 30 or 40 years. This is coming from the leader of a party that represents half of the population in an ethnically divided society.
Here is Mr. Jagdeo in his own words: “Every race has a place in our Party and has a right to make progress in the country and we in the PPP/Civic is the only Party that can deliver this for all of our people. Because of that, we will not only win power on March 2; we will stay in power for another 20, 30, 40 years in the future” (January 13, 2020 edition of another newspaper). Of course, he prefaces his threat of 40 years with a political lie that all races have a place in the PPP—he knows, and all Guyana knows that that is empty rhetoric. The real message follows the lie.
Mr. Jagdeo is in effect saying to African-Guyanese and those Amerindians who don’t support the PPP that should the PPP win the coming elections, they should be prepared to be dominated for the next four decades. Where does that leave us? I don’t like telling people to vote against a party—I prefer people vote for something rather than against a party. But Mr. Jagdeo leaves us with little choice. I have to advise voters of all ethnic groups, including Indian-Guyanese, to vote against Mr. Jagdeo’s master plan for Guyana. That in effect means that we have to vote against the PPP.
I have noted in this column before that I sense that despite the refusal to abandon ethnic voting, some voters are asking questions of their ethnic parties. Many African-Guyanese, Amerindians and a smaller section of Indian Guyanese seem to have embraced coalition politics. For some African-Guyanese there is this interesting convergence of ethnic feeling and coalition politics. This for me is hopeful, and is one of the reasons that I am encouraging voters to give the Coalition a second chance. I think the Coalition as a political formation is better able to absorb this new energy.
So, I am arguing that there are some clear choices before the electorate on March 2. Mr. Jagdeo and the PPP have made one of those choices even clearer. As a rule, I prefer to encourage voters to vote for something. Even if you are voting for a party for ethnic reasons, demand policies from that party. But on this score, I am prepared to break with that approach. It is quite in order to sell your party as the better choice, but to threaten half the country with 40 years of domination is unacceptable.
For those voters who have been threatening to stay home on March 2, you now have a reason to come out and vote. Come March 2, vote against Mr. Jagdeo’s master plan.