MANY claim that the number one source of political instability in Guyana is race. This is not so. Instead, the political problem in Guyana is that one of the main political parties plays by democratic rules and follows the constitution, while the other main party has a long and uninterrupted history of authoritarianism.
This is a big claim and so only indisputable facts could establish the truth. We could examine the issues by looking at the conduct of the parties around regional and national elections. Consider the following verifiable facts.
First, every independent source- foreign governments, foreign election observers, internationally respected human rights organisations, independent scholars (both local and foreign), agree that the PNC stayed in power between 1968 and up to 1992 through widespread rigging. The evidence is overwhelming and incontrovertible.
Second, the PNC has a long record of disruptive tactics. One of its favourites is what we might call the Art of Delay. The lead up to the 1992 elections makes the point well. Through the efforts of the Atlanta-based Carter Center, the PNC agreed, in December 1989, that it will allow free and fair elections. It also agreed to allow independent observers, both local and foreign. While the agreement was struck in December 1989, the election did not take place until October 1992. Specifically, it took 1,009 days for the PNC to allow the elections. The delay by the Hoyte-led PNC had nothing to do with race. The PNC had been in power for three decades and controlled every facet of state power. The PNC also had numerous Indians who helped to legitimise the authoritarian regime and were also active in the rigging.
Third, on December 21, 2018, a no-confidence vote was taken against the APNU-AFC when Mr. Charrandas Persaud voted against his own coalition. It was a vote of conscience according to Mr. Persaud. Despite clear constitutional guidance to hold elections in a timely manner, it took the APNU+AFC 437 days to have the elections. The Art of Delay was in full swing.
Another act of delay commenced on March 2, 2020 and ended 153 days later, when the APNU+AFC reluctantly conceded they had lost the election. Yes, 153 days. In this instance, the PNC led APNU, backed up by Khemraj Ramjattan and Moses Nagamootoo of the AFC, employed dubious legal tactics to drag out the swearing-in of Dr. Mohamed Irfaan Ali as the rightful president. One pathological sideshow was the absurd claim by the APNU+AFC that 33 is not more than 32.
The facts are clear. The PNC and later the APNU+AFC with an assortment of smaller actors, engaged in disruptive delaying tactics, often combined with violence, or some might say outright political theft, of 1,519 days.
Now, if you compare the PPP and then PPP/C conduct around elections, things look different. The May 2015 elections makes the point in convincing fashion. The elections were held on May 11. In less than 48 hours, senior ministers from the Ramotar Cabinet offered their resignations and turned in their keys. Mr. Granger was sworn in just five days, despite a difference of only one vote in Region Eight between the APNU+AFC and PPP/C.
There should have been an automatic recount. It was not done. Nor did GECOM count 40 boxes of votes, most from voting districts where the PPP/C was heavily favoured. Former President, Donald Ramotar, not only confirmed this on the Gildarie-Freddie Show, but also confirmed that the request to count only a small number of the boxes was refused by Keith Lowenfield, the Chief Elections Officer of GECOM at that time.
The pattern of disruptive practices by the PNC and AFC continues to this day. Opposition leader Aubrey Norton only recently made the absurd claim that a meeting with President Ali does not constitute “consultation.”
In contradiction to arguments that Guyana’s politics is grounded in racial divisions, there is unmistakable evidence that the real issue is that there are social forces in this country that have never accepted democracy as a preferred value. The PNC’s record on this is beyond dispute. The AFC has taken many pages out of the PNC’s handbook. The WPA, once a champion against authoritarianism, is now deeply entrenched with the authoritarians, and hangs everything on race.
It would be foolish to dismiss the dynamic of race in Guyanese politics. But we need to understand that race is a convenient mantra to recite. It stirs the masses quite easily and claims about racism are presented in ways that cannot be easily refuted through empirics.
Yet, as shown above, we can focus on problems that are easily verifiable. In this case, we can now affirm, without contradiction, that the PNC’s refusal to accept democracy is a greater contributor to political instability than race, per se.