APNU has to face the truth about the future

Dear Editor,

APNU/PNC came in second for the fifth consecutive election in twenty years. Beyond the euphoria of APNU doing better in 2011 with 139,678 votes than the PNC in 2006 when it captured 114,608 votes, 2011 was an underwhelming performance when matched with pre-2006 performances. The PNC got between 160,000 to 166,000 votes and around 40% to 41.6% in elections in 1992, 1997 and 2001. 20,000 to 26,000 votes less than 1992, 1997 and 2001 in an election of a staggering turnout of APNU/PNC voters and grave repudiation by voters of the ruling party is a disturbing trend of permanent decline. Voter apathy is here to stay and with 25% to 30% of the electorate typically staying away in the future, 2011 is very likely the current and future peak of PNC/APNU’s electoral performance in the new Guyana of low voter turnout. 140,000 votes in 2011 cannot win future elections when around 345,000 will show up to vote. The problem is that despite the APNU/PNC’s zenith (best performance) and the PPP’s nadir (worst performance) in the 2011 election, APNU still ended up some 26,000 votes behind the PPP. Even on its best ever democratic election performance with 92% turnout in 2001, the PNCR gathered 166,000 votes, which is still 5000 votes less than a majority in a low turnout election (73%) in 2011.

In other words, APNU/PNC cannot ever win a majority government in any free and fair election in a low turnout in Guyana. APNU/PNC can only win a minority government if (1) the AFC splits the PPP vote by taking some additional 27,000 PPP votes in a single election; (2) PPP supporters who historically turn out at a higher rate than PNC/APNU supporters stay home in massive numbers, thereby distorting the turnout rates; (3) APNU/PNC pulls 27,000 votes from the PPP; or (4) APNU/PNC undergoes substantial internal reform which increases its ability to get voters off the sidelines and from existing parties.

The AFC’s electoral increases have been small, and it cannot pull 27,000 votes from the PPP in a single election. Some Indians who supported the AFC may leave the AFC and return to the PPP. PPP supporters generally turn out at higher rates than PNC/APNU supporters. APNU/PNC in its current incarnation cannot ever get 27,000 voters from the PPP to close the gap. It is only the PPP’s crossover ethnic votes from Amerindians and those of Mixed Race that APNU/PNC can potentially get, and this prototype of the PNC/APNU cannot get 27,000 votes from that group. APNU/PNC has always gotten substantially less crossover ethnic votes compared to the PPP. These crossover ethnic voters constitute a large part of the non-voting population. The few that participate tend to heavily support the PPP and AFC, not the PNC. After APNU/PNC’s prolonged protest occupation of the streets, legitimate or not and peaceful or not, APNU/PNC will take a hit in terms of support and potential support from moderate Africans and definitely from the Amerindian and Mixed crossover voters it obtained in 2011. Demographics in the form of declining African and Indian populations are against ethnic parties like APNU/PNC and the PPP. So is migration, as Indians and Africans tend to migrate at a higher level than other groups.

Fertility is also steadily declining among the Indian and African populations. All of these factors point to a very long time in the political wilderness for APNU/PNC.

APNU has to drop the delirium, get off the streets, sober up and face the truth about its future. Because it can’t win power in the foreseeable future, it must take this majority Parliament gift as an unbelievable opportunity to push a change and reform agenda through Parliament that generates a better future system which allows it to effectively function even as an opposition party and for the country to experience genuine change. The PNC missed the boat before 1992 when it failed to drastically change the ridiculous 1980 constitution. The PPP then fully exploited that constitution. If APNU sits idly by while this madness repeats itself, it will be punished by the voters. Change is the only option for the PNC. It has to seriously reform itself, get new leadership, jettison the old guard who draw immediate suspicion and present a moderate message and a more multiethnic cadre. For no matter how much good this current unreformed APNU/ PNC does with its combined parliamentary majority in the next five years, Guyanese voters will not want to change the status quo of APNU as an opposition party if  it remains unchanged. Vital crossover voters will see APNU as good enough only for its current role and nothing else. Only reform could change how the public views APNU and the PNC.

The PPP will face the same scenario.

Members of APNU’s prominent leadership are pushing 65 years and are from an old guard that the majority of this country does not trust. The writing is on the wall.

Yours faithfully,
M Maxwell

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