In the last few weeks, as the countdown to March 21 drew closer, there was apprehension from some quarters that there might be “trouble” – as had occurred during the last two decades after the PNC disputed the outcome of elections. With great confidence, I assured my interlocutors there would be “no trouble”. The PNC, after all, were not trying to get the PPP out of office; while the latter and their supporters might be frustrated and even angry, they are in no position to “make trouble”.
It is a fact of the human condition that when an individual’s expectations are unfulfilled, a frustrating situation is created when he becomes aware of the forces preventing him from achieving his goals. In general, the emotional response to frustration is anger. The individual in attempting to reduce his frustrations may intensify his attempts to achieve his goals. When the frustrating situation affects many or all members of a particular group – as the Government’s actions against the PPP supporters’ expectations for an early elections after Charrandas’ NCM – a group response may be elicited. But much depends on the coherence and strategy of the group’s leadership, in this case the PPP.
The strength of the anger instigated by the frustration varies directly with the perceived success for achieving the goals that were anticipated – here having elections by March 21, 2019 – but not achieved due to the PNC’s delaying tactics and intransigence to uphold the dictates of the Article 106 (6). The majority of Indians didn’t really believe the PNC would voluntarily comply, based on their history of bullyism and this lessened the depth of their anger, dependent as it was, on the likelihood of them attaining their thwarted goal.
In general, however, the anger of the frustrated PPP supporters could have been expressed in a reaction continuum of apparent resignation, non-violent protest or civil violence, depending on the interplay of the mediating variables of what are called “social control” factors – which serve to inhibit the expression of anger into violence – and “social facilitation” factors – which serve to encourage violent expressions. In the present scenario, the social control factors far outweighed the social facilitation factors, hence the resigned silence and sense of deflation in the PPP constituency that greeted the decision of the divided Appellate Court when it struck down the NCM on very specious grounds.
In “social control”, a major factor in the likelihood of an aggrieved group like Indians choosing violence to achieve its thwarted goals is its perception of the retribution, which may be unleashed against it. The retribution may be violence, discrimination, and deprivation of goods or freedom – all of which were used against the Opposition by the PNC during the 1970s and 80s. In terms of the PNC, it is not only their actual use of violence but their capacity to use it that is important. The PNC always had this capacity in and out of office and have repeatedly declared that the members of the Disciplined Forces, which were built up and staffed during their dictatorial regime and are now being replenished, are its “kith and kin”.
PNC leader Desmond Hoyte is on record as saying without any fear of contradiction that the PPP only responds to “force and pressure”. The leadership of the PNC also acts on the premise that the leadership of the PPP – in addition to not possessing the capacity to use violence – does not even possess the will to do so. They expect the PPP to hark to the “principle of anticipated reactions” – of the armed forces and the lumpen elements in Georgetown – and call upon its supporters to “stay calm” and not to retaliate. The PNC Government is assured they have nothing to fear from this quarter.
Leaders have to appreciate the power implications on each ethnic group of every act that they perform – including rigging elections. Power has two major attributes – resources and their mobilisation. The resources of the group include the group’s total numbers, physical and financial assets, social organisation, culture and belief system, and education and skills. But in Guyana, the PNC’s control of the armed forces, bureaucracy and the other state institutions trump the PPP’s mobilisation capabilities of its not insignificant resources.
Expect the PNC to now complete preparations to retain power post 2020.