For a change, the PPP is being outmaneuvered by the Coalition – Dr. David Hinds

It is obvious to any keen political observer that the government was caught off guard by the No-Confidence Vote (NCV) and that exiting office at this point would derail its plan to use government as an electioneering tool in the homestretch to the 2020 election.
This is a tactic used by most governments. But, given the fact that the Coalition has been harshly criticized by its own constituency for not delivering to them, it is one that is especially crucial to their fortunes at the next election.    

On the other hand, it is clear that the PPP is rearing to go to the polls as early as possible. That party has obviously figured that it has the Coalition on the ropes. The governing parties are still reeling from the twin setback of defeat at the Local Government Election (LGE) and by the passage of the no-confidence motion in the National Assembly.

The inability to inspire its supporters to turn out for the LGE means that the Coalition has to go to them with a fresh message of accomplishment and hope—something that it needs more time to construct. But the PPP is flush with confidence and its supporters are already in electoral mode.

So it is not surprising that nothing that the Coalition has done or said since December 21 gives the impression that it is eager to hit the campaign trail. Apart from informally saying that President Granger would be its standard bearer whenever the elections are held, there is no hint of traditional electioneering from the Coalition.

But make no mistake, the government is campaigning very hard. As the de-facto government, the strategy seems to be to use the government as the medium to impress the electorate that the Coalition should be returned to office. We are now being treated to almost daily announcements of government initiatives which are targeted to select constituencies. There seems to be a concerted attempt to answer some of the concerns of government supporters.

In this regard, the PPP appears to be politically helpless. While the PPP has been reduced to making promises to the electorate, the Coalition is using government to deliver on some of its promises. But more importantly, the Coalition has been using two avenues to slow down the process.

First, by going to the courts to review the NCV, the Coalition has in effect slowed down the transition to elections. I have reluctantly gone along with the right to judicial review, largely because I see nothing that constitutionally denies that right. I say reluctantly, because although it is a legal right, the political optics are not necessarily in the Coalition’s favour. Twist it or turn it, both the Coalition and PPP supporters read the move to the courts as delay tactics, albeit for different reasons.

Government supporters see it as brilliant politics—using legitimate means to get back at the PPP’s attempt to derail the government before its term is up. But, it is the PPP and its supporters’ contention that the court cases are meant as a move to remain in office that the Coalition has a hard time denying.

The case to the PPP constituency is made within the context of the old, anti-democratic praxis of the PNC—a narrative that has tremendous currency in the PPP’s constituencies. While the Coalition could ignore what the traditional PPP voters think, it should not do the same with regard to the thinking of many independents, particularly among the middle and professional classes.

Many in this section of the electorate are apparently uncomfortable with the notion of using the courts to remain in office illegally. And as I have repeatedly argued, this group was critical to the Coalition’s fortunes in 2015, and would be equally critical at the next election.

The Chief Justice has said that she would give her verdicts by the end of the month. If the verdicts are in the Coalition’s favour, the PPP would be sure to appeal to the higher courts, which would then give the Coalition more time in office. But it would then be able to put the blame on the PPP for the delay. If the verdicts go against the Coalition, it also has the option of appeal. But given the political optics I discussed above, it would be interesting to see if they would pursue that option.

I think that that would depend on what transpires at the next theatre of contention—GECOM. The Coalition has found another lifeline at an institution that is at the heart of Guyana’s electioneering. The President got Jagdeo to agree to formally put the ball in GECOM’s court—a decision that I am sure the latter now regrets. The PPP no longer has the political clout at that institution. The Coalition’s commissioners have made a compelling case for a new round of house-to-house registration—an area that the PPP has traditionally championed. I don’t see how the PPP can prevent that process—the most it can do is strike a compromise to reduce the length of time it would take. In the end, the Coalition would get the extension it politically needs. I don’t think there would be elections within the stipulated 90 days.

MR. JAGDEO’S AFRICAN GUYANESE INITIATIVE
I have mixed feelings about Mr. Jagdeo’s intention to include more African Guyanese in the PPP. On the one hand, one must welcome any serious move by one of our major parties to reach across the ethnic divide. There is always a place for such initiative if they are guided by sincerity and a real concern for improved race relations. Any party is free to campaign in any community and to make a pitch for votes. And in that regard the PPP’s initiative should be welcomed.

But I am afraid that given Mr. Jagdeo’s track record in this regard, I am very skeptical. In the past the PPP’s outreach to African Guyanese has amounted to “ethnic window dressing”, something that has not contributed to national unity.

In Mr. Jagdeo’s case, his regime’s policies, which were grounded in ethnic domination, have left lasting scars on the African Guyanese collective psyche. It was not just the bias towards the PPP’s traditional base that was cause for concern, but it was the way in which the State in conjunction with the so called “phantom” forces were systematically used to directly and indirectly crush the soul and the spirit of African Guyanese.

A few experiences are worth remembering. The use of the police at Linden during the crisis brought about by the PPP’s attempt to remove an economic subsidy is still very fresh in our minds. We remember the government’s response to the Buxton scenario that did not just punish the politico-criminal gangs, but criminalized and assaulted an entire community and beyond.

We remember how the PPP used the State and other institutions to embed fun and frolic in the African Guyanese community, rather than introduce serious policies aimed at economic and cultural empowerment. We remember the PPP ignoring the wishes of the African Guyanese cultural leadership and unilaterally making decisions on sensitive cultural issues like the 1823 monument.
But I wish to remind that community that the PPP has never apologized to African Guyanese for those infractions and sought to compensate them.

I am on record of calling on the Coalition to apologize to African Guyanese for not following through on campaign promises. I hold the PPP to the same standard. Until that party acknowledges its past misdeeds and puts on the table real policies aimed at dealing with the ethnic imbalance in the economy, I would not take its outreach to African Guyanese seriously.

There are serious structural problems in the African Guyanese community that are unique to that community, some of which are historical and some which were directly and indirectly caused by the policies of the Jagdeo regime. What African Guyanese want are initiatives aimed at bringing about ethnic equality of opportunity.

Let Mr. Jagdeo tell us how he intends to deal specifically with those unique problems that are grounded in the ethnic imbalance that he exacerbated. He must tell African Guyanese how he intends to close the gap in key areas of the economy. He must say categorically where he and the PPP stand on Executive Power Sharing with the representatives of African Guyanese. He must vow that the State would never be used again to physically and economically assault African Guyanese youth. He must vow that the State would not be used again to bribe African Guyanese to become PPP enforcers. He must vow not to use the State again to turn African Guyanese youth into chronic party animals.

Regarding those African Guyanese who may be tempted to join the PPP ticket at the top, I wish to remind that that approach has never yielded any rewards for the African Guyanese community. Those recruits end up representing themselves and eventually becoming diehard PPP members.

In ethnic societies like ours, the tactic of one group choosing leaders for the opposite group has never worked. The PPP would be better advised to seek a lasting political solution with the representatives of African Guyanese in the form of a National Government.

More of Dr. Hinds’ writings and commentaries can be found on his YouTube Channel Hinds’ Sight: Dr. David Hinds’ Guyana-Caribbean Politics and on his website http://www.guyanacaribbeanpolitics.news. Send comments to dhinds6106@aol.com

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