Whither Guyana’s Political Parties

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At some point Guyana has to settle its political problems. The country cannot afford to continue to wallow in the political gangsterism that has become normative. The current government is in place, and it has a responsibility to govern fairly. The opposition however cheated it may feel has to behave as if it is part of the overall governance and make demands of the government. The past sixteen months has been a case of government over-reach and opposition timidity. The political parties in Guyana are all in one form of decline or the other.

Some observers have pointed to the internal problems within the PNC as the reason for the unresponsive and weak opposition that has characterized these past months. We beg to disagree. Any political party tasked with representing the interests of half of the electorate in a delicate political environment as Guyana must always be on the alert. Put bluntly, we feel the PNC has failed its constituency. No party which held political office has ever been so beaten down as the contemporary PNC.

The PPP has sought to take advantage of the PNC’s virtual surrender of the political space to its opponents. The government has pushed the envelope to the point where the country is on the brink of a major explosion. The PPP, never a party to act strategically in the interest of the collective, has behaved as if it is in office thanks to a landslide victory. It has sought to embarrass its opponents and to use its power to reduce the country to one-party State. We fear for Guyana. The PPP is a party with no sensitivity to the nuances of Guyana’s politics

Against the backdrop of a rampant government and a weak opposition, the country is headed towards permanent instability. The recent announcement of a seven percent raise for the pro-opposition Civil Service has heightened the tension in the country. If history is a teacher, the signs are not good. The government cannot pretend it is a victim here. It must know that after all the giveaways to friendly constituencies, it cannot face public servants and feign innocence.

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The PPP is its own worst enemy. That party from 1856 to the present has always sought to govern with a big stick in an environment which is fraught with danger. It is as if it never learns from its mistakes. The current party leadership has calculated that it can govern by force and get away with it because the opposition is in crisis. It is a case of poor judgement . In the absence of a weak opposition, new forces would fill the vacuum. One just has to remember the troubles of 2002-2006 and the way in which the entire country was almost devoured. We must never walk that road again.

But the current government ignores that lesson. It presses on as if the country is its party’s property. It dishes out money to its supporters as if it’s an ATM. It violates the rule of law with slight respect for the rest of the society. In less than two years it has alienated some of its key backers. Yet it acts as if it does not care about the consequences. The government is bad news for Guyana.

The PNC for its part inspires little confidence. It shows no inclination towards defence of its constituents. The party of Burnham has lost touch with its followers. Thirty-six years after Burnham’s death, the party has not learned how to talk to its followers—it relegates their interests to the periphery of the party’s concerns. The PPP makes rings around the party when it comes to the issue of race. None of the candidates for high office at the coming party’s congress has confronted the burning issue of racial discrimination. It is a serious dereliction of duty.

What about the AFC and the WPA? The AFC as a non-ideological party finds it difficult to engage the nation as a living entity. The party has lost its sheen and appears to be out of touch with Guyana. It is yet to put before the opposition base a vision for the future. The WPA as a party is kept alive by the activism of individual members. There is a limit to that–at some point there has to be a party with a cohesive outlook. Both AFC and WPA have to make bold decisions about their continued role in Guyanese politics or risk being relegated to the margins.



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