Back in March, when Granger called for a recount after the Mingo debacle – which he could not deny because the entire western block had witnessed his perfidy – we wrote bluntly, “The recount is just a ploy.” We still do not see Granger letting go of power even now that the recount has proven beyond a shadow of doubt that the PPP won the elections.
We pointed out that Granger and the PNC are using a strategy called appropriately in game theory and politics, “gambling for resurrection” (GFR). Here, leaders who see defeat staring them in the face of competition or conflict, take high risk actions that would be considered “irrational” in normal circumstance because the high costs of defeat “objectively” outweigh the low probability of victory.
But in this specific instance, the Gambling for Resurrection PNC leaders, Granger and Harmon, figure that while high, the risks are not insurmountable. First of all, they had already polarized its African-Guyanese constituency with their mobilization strategy during the campaign: exploiting historical fears of being “swamped and subordinated” by “circling the wagons” against the PPP, who are presented as devils literally planning to exterminate them. They have deployed classic tactics like personalising their hatred, not only onto their Indian Guyanese ethnic rivals, but moreso onto their leader Bharat Jagdeo. The talk-show hosts have migrated from the local TV screens to the far more powerful social media platforms from where they whip up ethnic fears of their group. Granger and the PNC have the support of their core group.
Secondly, Granger and the PNC know that domestically, the PPP are in no position to challenge their illegal squatting in office. They occupy the seat of authority (the government) and have the ethnic loyalty of all the power centres of the state: the Police Force; the GDF; the Peoples Militia; the Civil Service; the Government corporations where they have appointed ex-army squaddies as Heads of Department plus even supposedly independent institutions like GECOM etc. And just as importantly, they can always call out the lumpen urban elements who have historically rioted on their behalf, such as the post-1997 ethnic riots , to intimidate the Indian-Guyanese business class, who are considered as financial backers of the PPP. It for these reasons that the PNC can confidently announce that they will not “allow” the PPP to return to office.
The only fly in the ointment in the PNC’s gamble is the position of the international community – especially the US. Back in 2011, just before the elections of that year, some PNC-friendly academics, such as Ivelaw Griffith who was later to be appointed VC of UG as a reward, had crafted a document on the “Strategic Culture of Guyana”. This posited that the PNC better satisfied that criterion, which the US was using to evaluate allies after the fall of international communism. This conclusion had been presented to the US administration, especially the US Army Southern Command, which is closely affiliated with the sponsoring Florida International University. The US, in fact did tilt towards the PNC in the 2011 and 2015 elections, when the latter captured office in coalition with the AFC.
The more even-handed approach of the US Administration in the subsequent years can only be attributed to the PNC coalition’s inept handling of the domestic situation – especially the economy and politically, with its obdurate refusal to modify its policies to practice consultative coalition politics. The US must have concluded “this is déjà vu all over again” as they remembered the disaster the PNC under Burnham had wreaked in Guyana. The PPP, on the other hand, had demonstrated they were not going to challenge US interests locally and hemispherically and they were better suited to maintain stability in a country that neighbours the strategically vital Venezuelan oil reserves.
Granger had carefully phrased his commitment on the recount on Chairperson Claudette Singh’s declaration. Going by his history, he would have already gamed the system in his favour. In this situation the PNC leadership is gambling for resurrection by taking on the Americans and the west which have consistently called for the results of the recount to be respected.
As such Granger and the PNC are almost certainly taking the country down the road to sanctions – most likely personal. This will not end well.