Now that the dust of the Local Government Elections (LGE) is finally settling down, the new political landscape is beginning to be discerned. The combination of a lower-than-normally-low turnout and a massive victory of the PPPC in the popular vote and in newer Municipalities appeared to have persuaded the PNC – the largest party in the coalition Government – to intensify its practice of “realpolitik”.
As explained by Encyclopedia Britannica, “Realpolitik (is) politics based on practical objectives, rather than on ideals. The word does not mean “real” in the English sense, but rather connotes “things”—hence a politics of adaptation to things as they are. Realpolitik thus suggests a pragmatic, no-nonsense view and a disregard for ethical considerations.”
The PNC was always grounded in realpolitik through its founder’s admiration of the philosophy of Machiavelli, who is seen as the father of realpolitik. Burnham’s decision to split the nationalist movement in 1955 — in spite of its perverse ethnic consequences that bedevil us into the present — just to become leader under the CIA-hatched plan to oust the PPP Government, is an example of his realpolitik approach. Another was buying-off PPP and UF MPs in the wake of his decision to rig elections from 1968.
The decision to subsume the PNC’s name for “APNU” as a “coalition” with 4 “paper parties in 2011 was another move dictated by realpolitik. But even moreso was the concession in 2015 that it was not really a “multiracial” party, but needed the putative Indian-Guyanese supporters of the AFC to form a “multiracial” Government.
By 2018, however, the AFC’s support base – especially in the Indian-Guyanese community — had evaporated in the cold light of the actions of the coalition Government over the last three years. Before the LGE, the reassertion of realpolitik was signalled by the decision of the PNC to go to the polls without its coalition partner. This would be a litmus test of the latter’s real electoral worth going forward into the general elections of 2020. Suspicions that the AFC had not really delivered its promised 10 per cent support from the Indian-Guyanese constituency in 2015 had made their 40 per cent allocation of the Cabinet untenable from a realpolitik perspective.
The LGE confirmed the suspicions and proved that the AFC had dwindled into an inconsequential 4 per cent party. The PNC had also conceded that the fig leaf of the APNU paper parties without any support on the ground might have proved useful in 2015, but had outlived its usefulness against the background of the reconsolidation of the PNC’s traditional support in the African- Guyanese community. While the PNC used the APNU brand during the LGE, the participation of its erstwhile partners was noticeable for their absence on the hustings.
But the implosion of the AFC raised, once again, the problematic of the need for the PNC to gain legitimacy by forming a truly multiracial Government. The action that had caused the implosion of the AFC was the peripheralisation of the Indian-Guyanese interests from the Government’s programme – epitomised by the shutdown of half of the sugar industry and sacking of 7000 of its dominantly Indian-Guyanese workforce.
It was these circumstances that drove newly elected Chairman of the PNC, Volda Lawrence, to utter the paradigmatic realpolitik statement to a PNC audience: that the PNC had to recruit “people who look like Jagdeo”. This is a frank admission that with the implosion of the AFC, they needed to increase the numbers of Indian-Guyanese in their membership. But how to accomplish that? This was clarified in her other statement, which attracted attention: “The only friends I got is PNC, so the only people I gon give wuk to is PNC; and right now I looking for a doctor who can talk Spanish or Portuguese, and ah want one that is PNC.”
Lawrence is merely restating Burnham’s realpolitik policy that a PNC party membership card was necessary for obtaining jobs. The PNC today expects hope of participating in the coming “oil economy” will bring in Indian-Guyanese.