I submit the following to reinforce a point to the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) which I had made to partisans of the People’s National Congress (PNC) back in 2009 on the need for political mobilisation that reaches across the ethnic divide. With the last of the Buxton gangs taken out the year before, and in anticipation of the elections scheduled in 2011, I wrote in, “Ballots not bullets”: “The hard line, and eventual violent strategy, of the Opposition PNC in the post 1992 era was reinforced by even more violent extremists that sought to protect the interests of the “minority” African section. There was action and reaction.
“The tragic irony of Guyana was that the Opposition politicians were locked into their real-politik past and refused to acknowledge that demographic changes were inexorably altering the premise of their ethnic security dilemma. Because of persistent migration by the Indians and Africans from the coast, Guyana was becoming a nation of minorities, with the Amerindians in the hinterland increasing both absolutely and relatively to form a critical “swing vote”. The African Security Dilemma had been solved and the once irrelevant liberal premise now offered a way out of our morass.”
Since then, not only have two elections – in 2011 and 2015 – confirmed by implication the thesis of the built-in majority in the Indian section of the population being long gone, the census of 2012 has now produced empirical evidence for it. In a population that has remained fixed at three quarters of a million, Indian-Guyanese had dropped to 39.8 per cent, African-Guyanese followed at 29.2 per cent but the “Mixed” populace jumped to 19.9 per cent and the Amerindian to 10.5 per cent.
In response to the thesis, one well-meaning African Guyanese leader asserted categorically: “Neither the [People’s National Congress Reform] PNCR nor [Alliance For Change] AFC or any combined Opposition will defeat the PPP electorally – at least not in 2011.” This is because, “The sad reality is that the vast majority of PPP supporters will not allow themselves to vote for any other party…If Indians did not vote for Desmond Hoyte who was very pro-Indian and who engaged the REFORM to bring about fundamental change in the PNC…why would they vote for the PNC or AFC now?”
I replied, “Well for one, time and circumstances have changed and the Opposition could have changed their tactics and strategy to exploit those changes. The fact of the matter is that the Opposition do not need “the vast majority of PPP supporters” to vote for them to create seismic changes in 2011…The major problem with the Opposition is that they have not been able to get out their voters to the poll. In 2006, only 69 per cent of the 492,369 eligible voters went to the polls. This means that the PPP’s 54.6 per cent winning percentage only translates into 37.7 per cent of the total electorate – even less than the likely total percentage of Indian voters.”
Fast forward to the present. It is a fact that the majority of voters identifying as ethnically “Mixed” has generally gravitated to the PNC and if this trend continues, Indians are now in danger of being locked out of power in perpetuity. The danger is exacerbated when one considers that the reservoirs of State power – the bureaucracy and the Disciplined Forces – are still dominated by African Guyanese.
But there is a great opportunity presented to the PPP to move more of them into a “swing vote” bloc if they are not forced to cast their ballots because of hardening of ethnic divisions. Since they have already favoured the PNC, it will be up to the PPP to promulgate policies and programmes that push a “Guyanese” agenda to which this group is more inclined, rather than an ethnic agenda that alienates them.
For the 10.5 per cent Amerindian voters now forming another segment of the possible “swing votes”, some of them will remain because of inertia with the PPP but as I pointed out in “Ballots not bullets” – “as with minorities the world over caught between competing larger blocs, the Amerindians tend to go with the group with the purse-strings and power.”
And then there is always the possibility of “power sharing”.