The contenders list for the coming elections is now, with the creation of APNU, complete.
The emergence of the partnership is an event of importance if only for the fact that it signifies the reconciliation of some of the national leadership hitherto dispersed in different political formations and discordant on many issues.
A feature of APNU that attracts comment is the inclusion of the Working People’s Alliance. There have been letters critically discussing its involvement. It is a grouping whose weight in the history of our politics and whose influence on public opinion has always gone beyond the number of formal members or sympathisers it mobilises to the polls. But, for many, the presence of the WPA in APNU has the effect, eminently, of signalling that the PNC may now be considered a party worthy of “trust.” The WPA, it is remembered, has long been seen as having been the prime organisational victim of an earlier version of the PNC.
I have also earlier noted here that, in many ways, the WPA has the profile of a think tank or tendency in the national non-PPP political constellation. It could even have been considered (with Clive Thomas, Rupert Roopnaraine, Andaiye, Moses Bhagwan, Kwayana et al) to have had, socially and intellectually, more in common with the PNC’s left wing than it has had with any other party in our history. Perhaps a questionable conclusion. But, persuasively, the WPA’s commonalities with the multi-racial intelligentsia that has often supported the PNC reveal a frequent similarity of origin and objective that leads to new interpretations about the conflicts that divided the two parties in an earlier time.
The GAP, yesterday wedded to ROAR and today in APNU, appears to have its work cut out in bringing a greater motivation to the hinterland constituents that are supposed to be its bedrock. The other participants in APNU may be said to highlight its profile as a “tent” that accommodates, on principle, whomsoever will, whatever the numbers they bring in their trail.
It is regrettable that the third force of its time, the AFC, has declined involvement. It is unsettling to detect a sort of instinctual suspicion of the PNC on the part of some members. Understandably, the AFC was not created to dissolve itself forthwith in a coalition that may subsume its identity. Perhaps it may be willing to do so at a later time. And this observation only leads to the question of the reason the AFC was formed in the first place.
Was it to ensure governmental change at a cost that was pre-estimated but that excluded the necessity of some or all alliances at some stage down the road? Or would it merely serve to vacuum out of the ballot boxes a portion of the non-PPP, Afro-Mixed vote that used to go to the PNC? Or does it exist to spend eternity on the margins of the parliamentary process from whence, as embedded minority, it perpetually gives hell to a triumphant PPP or successful APNU? Or does it conceive of itself as cultural artefact, a mere and enduring example of the creation and persistence of the “multi-racial” among us. Or to survive forty or fifty years until its supportive demographic, whatever it is in reality, becomes the majority? It is possible that the party has already responded to questions of this sort and that I missed the answers.
What is certain is that Khemraj Ramjattan is an effective campaigner. I have watched, on their website, videos of his interaction with people in the country. He exudes caring and empathy and an intelligent understanding of their daily lives and problems. He packages and offers his message in terms they understand. It would be regrettable to see the AFC, like the WPA before it, wither in the heat of the two party system with its permanent hold on loyalties. But one thing is sure, the elections of this year will not be a repeat of the last. The abstentions and loosening of loyalty that the PNC suffered are hardly likely to be repeated and many votes that had migrated to the AFC may drift back to PNC (APNU).
The PPP seems to have been campaigning diligently. My own initial vision was that of a party that would have been re-invigorated by a Ramkarran candidacy. It was not to be and the Speaker has to be commended for the courage and persistence which he brought to his quest. But, “Unity” prevailed, and Mr Ramotar, of whom none find bad things to say at the personal level, got the garland and is now out there on highway and byway. Mr Jagdeo, who witnesses the end of surely the most difficult presidency anyone in the region has ever faced (at least in his first term), will be around, we are assured, to witness the continuation of the good work (remarkable especially in the LCDS field for a small country) he did. And the mistakes he notes corrected, we hope.
What is interesting to remark is that in all this run-up to the elections, and the inevitable talk of the PNC past and the current government’s errors, only two or three issues manage to achieve salience. The first is racial peace or contentment, and another, even more important for some, is poverty reduction and the economy, a third is crime and security. Any successor government may simply inherit rather than resolve these problems. But APNU, promising a Truth and Reconciliation commission, has made a commitment to start its clean-up by cleaning up the past.