At different press conferences, the two main political parties claimed victory in Monday’s national and regional elections but the Guyana Elections Commission had to warn at another that it was the only entity that can legitimize the winner.
The current situation is a compound of outdated politics, an outdated electoral system and a failure to recognize that Guyana has found itself in a brand new set of circumstances.
The PPP’s tactics during the election campaign clashed violently with the new media age. Often its claims and advertisements were debunked or ridiculed by the young people on social media.
There was also another level at which the PPP faltered. The visceral reaction to the PPP in the urban areas was a reflection of the extent to which its policies over the past four years were unpopular and had a whiff of something being imposed.
And none of the PPP politicians seemed to understand that even the most ordinary Guyanese can distinguish between propaganda and policy. Many observers had warned that party that policies like the $10,000 credit a year for each child, the one laptop per family, and the purported increases in pensions and emoluments for public servants had been described on social media by credible analysts as mere propaganda ploys to placate the poor in the urban areas.
But Donald Ramotar and company did not listen. As a result they faced the wrath of the population in the urban areas and the denial of their votes. To be sure, the PPP’s method of governing, characterized by a lack of accountability and tolerance of unacceptable levels of corruption played very badly in a significant segment of the population, including its own supporters.
I have never seen such open opposition and hostility towards Dr. Jagan’s Party as I did during this campaign. I attribute these failures of the PPP to its adherence to an outdated Marxist-Leninist culture and the will to dominate and control the entire political space. All the races in Guyana got fed up with this at the very moment when the PPP had lost its automatic majority and had to hustle votes among other ethnic groups.
The APNU+AFC did not run a flawless campaign. Far from it. David Granger and Moses Nagamootoo, along with Khemraj Ramjattan, recognized that the lack of a modern approach to politics by the PPP and the changing nature of Guyana had made that party vulnerable.
In particular, it was understood that the young people had come of age and could not be bamboozled by the perceived iniquities of Mr. Burnham’s rule. It was a measure of how far the PPP had become out of touch with the realities of Guyana that they hammered away at the PNC rule for 28 years, forgetting that the young people, 60% of the electorate, knew nothing about him and could care less.
Where the PPP was short on policy the coalition filled the void, promising popular measures such as an increase in pensions and more money for the Security Forces.
The coalition could also consider itself lucky. Its campaign was repeatedly dogged by infighting, lack of effective coordination and administrative incompetence, born of inexperience. Apart from Carl Greenidge, Granger and Nagamootoo very few of their operatives had any experience managing a campaign. And this could not be hidden even on the most pubic of occasions.
What the coalition had in its favour was the support of a population which had rebelled against the PPP administration. One only had to attend the rallies to feel the spirit of rebellion and the desire for change.
Guyana is noted for its antiquated administrative systems. The Elections Commission is not an exception.
While the commission dawdled the young people, most of whom are supporters of the coalition, had placed most of the results of the elections on the social media. These results formed the basis for the claim of the Opposition that it had won the elections. I believe the Opposition’s claim that it has won will stand.
The Commission, having admitted it is outdated, has promised to declare the final results. Most people in Guyana already know what these are. The PPP’s long dominance of Guyana’s politics is over.