Ethno-racial voting patterns in Guyana since 1955 have been taken as a given by most observers of the country’s politics. But there are those who argue that ethno-racial voting is a myth. They contend that people vote for the PPP and PNC because they perceive that those parties represent their interests. The central question is this-if people vote for the parties in defence or promotion of their “interests,” are those interests individual or collective? Further, are the citizen’s individual interests separate and unrelated from his or her group interest?
The most puzzling part of the discourse on ethno-racial voting patterns, however, is the view that the PPP gets “crossover” African votes because the party’s percentage share of final votes is about ten percent more than the percentage of Indians in the population at large.
There is a major weakness with this argument. First, it assumes that the breakdown of the voting population is the same as the wider population.
This, I suspect, may not be true. Second, and more importantly, it assumes that voter registration and turnout is the same in both communities. This also may not be true.
Some people may ask why am I raising this issue-what does it have to do with anything of importance? Well these arguments are at the heart of at least one party’s firm decision not to take a more inclusive approach to governance-an approach that they are more likely than not to regret.