Home Features Shooting themselves (the Opposition) in the foot
In a letter to the press, “No country really wants to conclude that it is a Failed State”, Dr David Hinds claims this condition is because “our (ethnicised) politics reflect our lack of a common nationalism”.
David’s statement isn’t merely false; it is “misinformation” that actually endangers democracy in our country. By basing his conclusion on a dilemma that was resolved through demographic changes, he refuses to accept the empirical evidence that, as a nation of minorities after 2006, the fatal democratic defect of an ethnic party (the PPP) having a built-in majority was eliminated. The African Security Dilemma of being locked out of power via democratic elections is over.
After observing the change in demographics following the 2006 elections, I engaged in a series of engagements with Eric Phillips, Lincoln Lewis, Freddy Kissoon, Tacuma Ogunseye and David Hinds. I noted in a 2009 article, ‘Ballots not Bullets’: “In the last couple of years, there have been persistent efforts to not only encourage the opposition into the streets to take on an “elected (PPP) dictatorship”, but actually to justify the armed outrages that have scandalised the country and further polarised the society. This approach not only locks out any possibility of exploiting the new opportunities for introducing fluidity into our political system, but, in a society as small as ours, ensures that the old political premises will stultify our politics for another half a century.”
Eric immediately shot back (as the others were to echo): “Neither the PNCR nor AFC, or any combined opposition, will defeat the PPP electorally – at least not in 2011.” This was 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 responded, “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. If, as is now most likely, Indians are at most 43% of the population (and if the PPP are getting all their votes from that community, as Mr. Phillips seems to assume), then, theoretically, the opposition do not need a single Indian vote to defeat them….
“The bottom line is that the opposition have not picked up the disaffected Indian voter from the PPP because, possibly like Mr Phillips, they have written them off. This is a grave strategic mistake. An even graver one is to pander to the disillusioned fringe that is clamouring for violence to overthrow the legally elected government of the day. This alienates even moderate voters from other communities.”
A few months later, in ‘Stuck in the past’ (Jan 2010), I advised, “I believe that it is the opposition’s own unwillingness to forge a strategy and build a mobilisation machinery that could deny the PPP a majority, rather than any inbuilt “ethnic censuses” that is keeping the PPP in office. In such a scenario, even if the PPP at best secures the Presidency, they would need opposition support to govern. This could provide the leverage for initiating changes in governance structures, and was the premise of my “Centre Force” proposal in 2005.
“I repeat my position that democracy is strengthened when there is a periodic alternation of governments. The responsibility for assuring this latter eventuality lies with the opposition: it is unrealistic to assume that the government will altruistically fold up their tent or open it to the opposition. The opposition have to address the concerns, interests and fears of the majority of the citizens more competently than the incumbent government. They cannot blame the incumbent for retaining that majority if they ignore those concerns, disregard those interests, and stoke those fears. I am happy that the organised opposition parties have abjured the extremist rhetoric of Messrs Kissoon and Lewis et al.”
Because of that moderation, there was a “tie” after the polls of 2011, and a change in Government in 2015. The APNU/AFC coalition were ousted in 2020 because they shot themselves in the foot after 2015.
David appears determined to advise more shooting in that direction.