The PPP must develop a PR strategy that goes beyond accusation and name-calling
What may very well prove to be the undoing of the PPP is the fact that some of its opponents, like Khemraj Ramjattan and Moses Nagamootoo, seem entirely familiar with the psychology of the party and of its supporters. This familiarity is a factor that renders their opposition all the more effective and seems to have put the ruling party on the defensive.
Familiarity with the mindset and emotive reflexes of the players in our national politics is the key to decoding the messages they emit and to discerning the audience to which it would be broadcast. And at this stage, in terms of strategy and tactics, the opposition forces seem to have the upper hand as the relentless, often self-inflicted, hammering the PPP/Civic has received brings out certain lessons.
It is all about PR and understanding the mentality of the adversary.
The ex-PPP executives at the spearhead of the AFC have launched a particularly effective campaign of alienating the ruling party from some of its traditional industrial base. The delegitimisation of GAWU that seems to be happening hurts the PPP, which is now no longer seen as the unfailing bulwark of the sugar workers that felt they could count on the union all their lives.
The focus on corruption and the proliferation of “fat cats” rings a positive note with a proletariat whose struggles behind Dr Cheddi Jagan, were struggles precisely against the type of inequalities that ‘fat cat’ existence personifies.
The showcasing of examples or ridiculous decisions where invalid workers are denied justice after years, makes up the exact kind of story that is needed in the new narrative that is being spun, in which the PPP is to be portrayed as having betrayed the ideals for which many fought and died. Enmore Martyrs Day approaches it like a doom.
The de-emphasis of race and racial fear, so overtly worked by Mr Ramjattan during the last campaign, is another example of their understanding of the reflexes of some followers and the tendency of the PPP to push certain buttons.
The results seem to be a PPP caught off-balance and wallowing in self-pity as it hurls a plaintive “neekharam” in the direction of its tormentors and in the hearing of the faithful.
The AFC has effectively extended its racial reach (for during its last term it was seen as a party of the remnant of disaffected Africans) by approaching the PPP discontented in terms they are bound to identify with as the effulgence of the first moments of 1992 fades, and a new generation reviews and re-interprets the reality it sees. The PPP cannot reverse itself, but it makes the PR mistake of seeking recourse in repeating an ethno-political narrative better suited to a party in opposition leading an oppressed minority, than to a government with a twenty-year history of post-independence governance.
On The APNU side, what Stabroek News calls the “volley of motions” by that party in parliament has so destabilised and discommoded the ruling party, that its confused approaches to the courts and an unconvincing rhetoric (dictatorship of one seat) has become a substitute for effective response.
APNU entered the House with the twin tasks of demonstrating its effectiveness as an opposition party and speaking for a broader multi-racial supportership than the 35 or so per cent of the Afro-Guyanese segment of the population. It has maintained a discourse of accommodation and broad goals of co-operation with the government while putting on the pressure. It has been determined in its hunting down of irregularities.
The PPP must, at this stage, develop a PR strategy and practice that goes beyond tiresome accusation, name-calling and shutting out the opposition from the media they control.
But for this to happen the ‘personality’ of the party must perceptibly change. Its self-portrayal as a group working in the interest of a harrassed minority and a few Amerindians is grounded in a past where such an image could sell.
For a governing party this image has become an irrelevance and is hardly credible any more. They need both to come up with a new strategy and to clean up their act.