ON his long journey down Wakenaam’s longest mud dam, Rajkumar laboured his way through the mud with his bicycle. As he embarked on this ritual which occurs every five years, he clutches his enamel cup of water which provides succour for him, while waiting in blistering sun to cast his ballot. This life-long farmer grips his moist ID card, his greyed chest exposed. He is filled with traditional fervour to perform his civic duty. While waiting in the line, a young voter enquired, ‘Who are you voting for Mr. Rajkumar? He responded, ‘me voting for Jagan.’ Flummoxed by this reply, the inquisitive youthful voter probed further, ‘Jagan is not on the ballot, he died eight years ago’. Visibly upset, Rajkumar said in thunderous finality, ‘election time, me does vote for Jagan.’
The undiscerning loyalty on display in the hypothetical exchange above is gold for political parties in plural societies and disastrous for the country. This phenomenon features on both sides of the political and ethnic divides in Guyana. It dangerously nullifies the fear of electoral consequence, a basic political trepidation that saves the masses from the abuse of power. At the detriment of a country, party leaders seek refuge under the resigned assurance that regardless of what we do, we have eternal ethnic loyalty. This surrender guides those who are obsessed with power and are not willing to relinquish same, especially at the party level.
Receive my contestation and apply it to the recent development of the ‘selection’ of the People’s Progressive Party’s candidate. There is absolutely no doubt that within the pool of candidates, the one chosen is the weakest and the most difficult sell. This begs the question, why would he be selected to be part of a Putin/Medvedev-type political arrangement, when it is clearly at the electoral risk of that political party? The answer lies in the aforementioned blind-loyalty circumstance.
Rajkumar is not concerned that democracy and transparency suffered to produce a candidate, he is not interested in the fact that there are credible and worrying question marks over the candidate named. He does not care, he is voting for Jagan, regardless of what the manifesto says or who is the selected candidate. This perilous reality guides the minds of those who advanced this candidacy and are determined to cling to power in a puppet arrangement.
Unthinking loyalty has always been with us, perhaps ever since our first mass-based elections in 1953. There are voters who are of the mindset which says, he might be a thief but he is our thief. However, in this time of changing demographics and the information age, the selection of this presidential candidate will undoubtedly test the limits of blind ethnic loyalty.