Guyana votes, a nation on edge

By Govind Hinds

Guyana went to the polls on March 2 and as of this date the final election results are still to be announced. This election has been defined as the mother of all elections as the world’s newest petro state began pumping oil in December

From Left: Lenox Shuman of the Liberty and Justice Party, Asha Kissoon of The New Movement and A New and United Guyana’s Ralph Ramkarran sign their memorandum of understanding on the joinder of their lists.

and it’s economy set to explode from hyper growth. To put things into context, Guyana will pump more oil in 5 years than Trinidad pumped in the previous 40 years.   The nation remains on a knife’s edge and emotions of running high. Both of the main political parties, APNU and PPP, have informally declared they have won and the losing side will not concede defeat quietly. Tense days lie ahead.

The Guyana election is a sad reminder that the nation remains locked in a winner take all contest defined by race politics.  The opposition PPP is criticizing the failings of the APNU government’s first four years in power after their 23 year reign over the bloodiest and most corrupt period in Guyana’s post independence history.   The fact that the APNU government has not been able to prosecute anyone significant points to two possibilities – the previous PPP government was not corrupt or members of the present government are themselves compromised and are motivated to let sleeping dogs lie. What is clear from is that both parties are complicit in signing away the country’s oil wealth for a pittance and both are claiming ignorance and incompetence instead of corruption.

The voters in Guyana are split into two camps – tribal voters and rational voters. The tribal voter will vote tribe every election. Political choice is about having their tribe in power whether they are corrupt or incompetent. They will ignore and reason away any shortcomings of their tribe.  They cannot change, for it means a change in personal identity, which is difficult for most. The rational voters are a minority and examine the leader’s qualities, the party’s mandate, their manifesto and determine which party they feel is worthy of their support.

The good news is that rational voters now have good and valid choices and even one seat would have a significant influence in the running of parliament and the functioning of government.   Nearly all of the parties are led by a new generation of rational leaders who are fed up with the politics of their fathers. There are at least five new parties to choose from, all headed by persons of integrity with no shortage of good ideas.

Three of these new parties (Liberty & Justice Party (LJP), A New and United Guyana (ANUG), The New Movement (TNM)) have signed a Joinders Memorandum to consolidate their votes and to share any seats won proportionately.  For example, if the three were to only win one seat and each had an equivalent number of votes, each party would share that seat with their respective representatives sitting for one third of the term in parliament. Any motions in parliament would be debated between the Joinder parties and the representative would vote accordingly. This innovative approach ensures that no vote is wasted with mechanisms to protect against the dreaded third force curse of being coopted, corrupted and betrayed. 

The Joinders strategy may hold the key to diversifying Guyana’s political landscape by providing the platform for new political parties to enter the arena. If they succeed in securing just one seat, it will be a victory for them and they may well hold the balance of power in a minority government scenario which is likely.  Guyanese around the world await the results anxiously and pray for a peaceful and prosperous future for all.