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The PPP is the most stubborn political party in the Anglophone Caribbean. It governs Guyana with no regard for the country’s precarious ethno-political condition. Despite its narrow one-seat majority, it governs as if it has the broadest mandate. It disregards the opposition. It ignores the pleas of its friends who helped the party to power. It violates the constitution and the laws of the country with impunity. It raids the treasury to satisfy its manifesto promises to its constituents. In short, the government is a dictatorship.
One is forced to ask if the PPP leaders are simply reckless, or their actions are deliberate. I submit that it is a combination of the two. The party’s praxis is two-fold—a combination of dominance of the country’s politics and institutions and the expressed desire to use government to criminalise and persecute their opponents. This praxis has its genesis in a deep-seated belief that the PPP is the only party capable of governing Guyana and that the PNC is grossly incapable of conducting that task. The ethnic overtones and undertones of this belief system are barely masked. It reeks of Manifest Destiny.
The recent proposed draft legislation aimed at curbing electoral fraud is a case in point. To begin, the PPP arrogates unto itself the task of sole accuser, judge and jury of the so-called attempt by its competitor to rig the 2020 election. Despite documented evidence of PPP’s fraud which was unearthed by the Recount, the PPP speeds ahead as if that fact is a figment of somebody’s imagination. It doesn’t even wait for the outcome of two election petitions before the court. No, the PPP has no time for the courts. According to the Attorney General, he does not have to wait on the court because he saw the rigging with his own two eyes.
The proposed legislation is riddled with hefty fines and extreme penalties, including life sentences. If passed, this law would become the most draconian election law in the world. Nowhere in the world such draconian laws exist for the offences in the draft bill. When confronted with that observation, the AG said that level of rigging in Guyana does not exist anywhere else in the world. Hence the penalties are more than justified.
Since no party creates draconian laws to prosecute itself, then it is clear that the proposed laws are meant to prosecute and persecute the opposition and GECOM officials who are already before the courts. What an obscene use of executive privilege! One imagines that if a government is genuinely concerned with deterring electoral fraud, it would first seek to clean up the institutions involved. But not the PPP. That party sees brute force as the main ingredient of governance.
It has been pointed out that the stiff penalties would serve to deter persons from working for GECOM at election time. This is true. But this is precisely what the PPP wants—it wants to chase away certain categories of people from working on election day. Who are the people who work for GECOM at elections? The PPP not only wants to make sure that GECOM’s permanent senior staff are PPP inserts, but it also wants election-day staff to be people it perceives to be PPP supporters. The PPP wants to make it easier to replicate what happened with the forty-eight boxes at the 2020 election.
Now to the proposal to divide Region 4 into four sub-districts ostensibly to make it easier to count the votes. So, in effect there would now be thirteen regions. Again, the ploy is evident—dilute the votes. It is a plain case of gerrymandering. They would draw the boundaries in such a way as to give the PPP contrived majorities which would in turn determine the allocation of top-up seats. This is a clear case of the PPP rigging the system by the use of the law. It is a political abomination.
The attempt at consultation is a sham. Real consultations should have been done at the beginning so that the bill to be considered would have had the blessings of key stakeholders such as GECOM, the Bar Association, the Law Reform body and the major opposition. As things stand the PPP and the PPP alone drafted the bill after its postmortem of the 2020 election and is set to use its parliamentary majority to ram it down the throats of Guyanese.
This is wrong. This is a naked abuse of power. This is provocation of the highest order. This is a recipe for political instability and trouble. If this bill passes it will close the door on free and fair elections free from fear. The PPP is not planning to leave office by the ballot. It is using executive power and parliamentary majoritarianism to rig elections. Guyanese people should not allow this to happen. It is known that the PPP wants to provoke political violence and then blame the opposition. It is the PPP’s way of first deterring protest and resistance. And if that does not work, it wants to criminalise the ensuing protest. I hope opposition forces see the PPP’s plan and avoid being trapped into the plan for violence. But equally important, it should not allow itself into being trapped in a cycle of inaction and non-resistance.