In our editorial of April 5, “The authoritarian danger”, we outlined the background to the PNC’s rigging of the 1968 elections as a prelude to Burnham’s authoritarian turn, which segued into a full-blown dictatorship that assassinated opponents by 1980. We continued:
“Today, Guyana has reached a conjuncture that eerily echoes the situation in 1968, which marked the inflection point towards authoritarianism. In its five years of coalition governance, the PNC-as-APNU showed scant regard for its AFC coalition partner that had given it the numbers to seize the reins of government.
However, unlike the UF that had resigned in disgust at the PNC’s high-handed actions in general over their four years in office, and in particular, its preparations for rigging the 1968 elections, the AFC has remained loyal to the PNC, even after the blatant fraud perpetuated on the Reg 4 tabulation of Statements of Poll (SoPs).
Analogous to the Venezuelan threat of the 1960s, Guyana is now confronted with an even greater threat presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, and there exists a clear and present danger that the PNC-as-APNU, which still heads the caretaker Government, will use it as a pretext for returning to its authoritarian roots to maintain power. It has already defied the entire foreign community for a month in refusing to allow a free and fair count of the votes. Caretaker President Granger does not fool anyone in his assertion that he is merely “complying with the law”, even as he allows one of his candidates to challenge the decision of GECOM to order a recount.
“He has just declared a month-long countrywide lockdown and a curfew between 6pm and 6am with only specified activities permitted where more than five persons can gather for “essential services”. …It is certain that protests against the government will be curtailed as it has been in Algeria, for instance, where there had been protests over the past year over lack of democratic reform…We do not need “firestick” to see what is clear in bright daylight.”
As we predicted, Granger has followed the lead of other opportunistic would-be dictators, as in Hungary, to deploy regulations ostensibly to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, but used to smother the democratic aspirations of the Guyanese people. The Emergency Regulations were utilised by the Government through the National COVID-19 Task Force (NCTF) to restrict the recount at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre (ACCC) to only 10 stations. While this was projected to take 25 days, after it became obvious this would be impossible to achieve, GECOM requested an additional six stations to accelerate the process.
In the meantime, Granger had appointed his de facto second-in-command, ex-Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Harmon to head the NCTF Secretariat and even though almost a week has elapsed after the request for additional stations, there has been no response. This deliberate sloth is in consonance with the PNC’s plot to stretch out the recount process into months, most likely hoping that the Caricom and OAS Observers would quit.
Granger has also used the COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse to refuse the re-entry of the Carter Center to continue its observation of the elections process, which is still ongoing, and for which it was accredited. His excuse was blown when he allowed in eights flights with workers from the Exxon oil rigs and several other “authorised” flights. He is most likely counting on the Caricom Observers to hark to the anti-American rhetoric his lieutenants have been spewing to support him in his bid to rig the elections as was tacitly done for the PNC between 1968 and 1985.
Finally, and most predictably (see above), Granger has used the COVID-19 crisis to stifle protests from the Opposition and other citizens. On Saturday, observing all the rules in the Emergency Regulations concerning masks, distance, numbers, etc, a group protesting the rejection of the Carter Center’s return was broken up by the Police and three members were arrested.
The jackboot is on the neck of the Guyanese people.