Why is APNU struggling to get off the ground? To begin with this coalition is actually a reinvention of the PNC, as everyone knows that the other partners, combined together, cannot even win one seat in parliament. And, in spite of its rhetoric to the contrary, everyone also knows that the WPA is a mere shell, an entity that has vey little to offer but asks for quite a lot in return. Based on what has transpired in the public domain and in private email wrangling, it is clear that APNU was really depending on the AFC to bring in resources and provide credibility as a coalition and that the AFC’s refusal to do so has not only resulted in bitterness from APNU supporters but has also led to APNU supporters labelling the AFC as Indocentric and likening it to the PPP – a strategy that does not help APNU at all.
APNU cannot win an election without crossover support from the PPP base. Yet the only argument that is being used in this attempt, is that since the PPP government has been bad, Indians owe it to themselves and the nation to support a better alternative. This is a logical argument. But Indians are asking themselves: where is the better alternative? Certainly APNU has not presented itself as such. The argument that the current PNC offers a better alternative does not pass scrutiny given the lack of response to its overtures from significant individuals and organizations as well as APNU’s inability to get its house in order, among other things.
For starters, most of the current top PNC echelon cut their political teeth under Burnham and some of them served in various top capacities with him. And while Hoyte, to his credit, did reverse some of the policies of Burnham, Indians will not forget his appeal to ‘kith and kin’ or his threats of ‘mo‘ fiah slo‘ fiah,’ language that came right out of Burnham’s playbook. Besides while free and fair elections were returned under Hoyte, the PNC did rig the 1985 elections. In effect cosmetic changes may have been made but the PNC, for all intents and purposes is the same one that established a dictatorship via rigged elections and which succeeded in totally marginalizing Indians and oppressing the vast majority of Guyanese. Even the very significant punitive move of expelling Hamilton Green was eventually reversed and Green is once again in the fold, even as he presides over a rotting/stinking (literally and metaphorically) Georgetown.
Thus given their experiences under the PNC, Indians would certainly not have been enamoured of the candidacy of Mr Granger, who only serves as a cogent link to and a grim reminder of those miserable experiences of the past. Mr Granger’s refusal to admit there was electoral rigging under the PNC and the insidious role of the army in this process as well as in propping up the PNC dictatorship certainly does not infuse confidence in those sections of the electorate from whom he must draw the additional support to take APNU over the line.
Furthermore some of Mr Granger’s campaign pronouncements would certainly not have endeared him to the Indian voters. For example surely he should have realized, or at least should have been advised that publicly stating that he would privatize the sugar industry is certainly not a significant vote-getting measure, and in all probability would alienate more votes than it would bring in. Furthermore, his announcement that he would establish an institute of conflict resolution and national reconciliation near the scene of the Son Chapman explosion, would have reinforced perceptions of bias, especially since he has not acknowledged Indian victims of that violence. In fact, this typical PNC strategy of selectively highlighting aspects of Guyana’s history to rally its base does nothing to present Mr Granger’s politics as new and different, much less nationally embracing.
But Mr Granger’s problems do not end there. His sanitizing of Guyana’s history in favour of the PNC in his writings and his presentations at international forums makes his rhetoric suspect, leaving many wondering just how much value his promises would have. Additionally, his military background brings to the fore the question of leadership style. Third world army leaders who became politicians have generally been autocratic, traits arising out of army training and experience. Granger has done nothing to dispel any doubts about his ability to practise a style of leadership that would be different. In toto, these realities continue to hamper his efforts at coalition-building and outreach to non-traditional PNC supporters and even the PNC’s own support base, with which he has no significant history or emotive connections.
In fact, Mr Granger’s inability to reach out and be inclusive is manifested in a number of ways. Firstly there is his inability to energize the current political leadership of the PNC. Not a single one of the PNC big names has been consistently hitting the trail on Granger’s behalf and the best efforts are coming from someone who has spent most of his post-PNC government life outside of Guyana – Carl Greenidge.
Besides, instead of harnessing Mr Corbin’s capital as party leader, Mr Granger has instead to deal with a back-seat Corbin who has no intention of being a major player in APNU’s election campaign. Secondly, Mr Granger has not succeeded in fully embracing the components of the PNC that had distanced themselves from Mr Corbin – the Murray faction, the Van West-Charles faction, the Vincent Alexander faction and others who were sidelined by Mr Corbin’s leadership and internal PNC wrangling. Thirdly, Mr Granger has not been able to bring into APNU any major organization although there are quite a number of entities that are decidedly anti-PPP and anti-government. Thus the sixty-four thousand dollar questions: if Mr Granger cannot build a coalition of the like-minded how is he going to build an inclusive government? And if Mr Granger cannot display leadership to his potential supporters, how will he display leadership at the national level?
To make maters worse, Afrocentric activists have been arguing that Africans have been systematically marginalized under the PPP but they have, thus far, failed to present the hard supporting evidence and the indicators of this marginalization. Indians, on the other hand, would argue that any marginalization that exists does so across ethnicities, especially at the grass roots, working-class level and in the rural areas. And the refusal of some Africans to acknowledge this will certainly leave Indians uneasy.
But perhaps the biggest problem for APNU is the assumption that there are a few generations of Indian (African and other) voters who know nothing about Burnhamism and have experienced only Mr Jagdeo’s governance. This assumption rules out the critical roles of socialization and group psychology in the Indian community, roles that are very evident also in the cultural and social arena. Additionally, there are still numbers of parents and grandparents who directly experienced Burnhamism and you can bet your bottom dollar they would have shared those experiences with their children and grandchildren. Of course there is also much that has been written about those years and which is readily available for public consumption.