The PPP’s image is in need of new faces for the upcoming general elections and it will have a tough battle to attract youths to its platform, according to former party executive Ralph Ramkarran.
In his column in yesterday’s Sunday Stabroek, Ramkarran adverted to the PPP’s surprise choice of former Foreign Affairs Ministry official Elisabeth Harper for the prime ministerial position and noted that as a result of her ability, integrity, experience and dedication she will add lustre to the party’s appeal at the upcoming polls. If anything, he quipped, it is the PPP that would damage Harper’s credentials.
Noting that in recent years there has been an influx of a new generation of young PPP and Civic leaders into the government including Ashni Singh, Robert Persaud, Frank Anthony, Priya Manickchand, Irfaan Ali, Bheri Ramsaran, Pauline Sukhai, Jennifer Webster, Jennifer Westford and Robeson Benn, Ramkarran said that most of these are likely to again serve in a new PPP government if the PPP wins as the party had mostly exhausted its supply of young cadres with the talent for ministerial or other high office. In addition, he said that the “old faces remain permanent, immovable fixtures. It would not be encouraging for the PPP’s supporters to have to contemplate the same faces for another five years. Therefore, as many new faces as the PPP can attract at this time would be helpful.”
Ramkarran said that both the PPP and the A Partnership for National Unity (APNU)-Alliance For Change (AFC) coalition are well placed and the margin of victory will be small. However, he said that unless the PPP can find a way to effectively channel its message to the youth who form a significant part of the electorate, it would have difficulty regaining a majority.
“Rural youth, potential supporters of the PPP, are not enthused and city youth, many from traditional PPP families, are swayed by the AFC. The message against the ‘PNC’ (the main constituent of APNU) is unlikely to have substantial resonance with youth because they have no experience of the PNCR in office”, Ramkarran said.
In addition, he said that opportunities for both rural and city youth are very limited and have not improved over the past three years.
“The message that the opposition has obstructed progress is not likely to resonate either, because the PPP has put forward no credible reason why it did not invite a coalition government to involve the opposition in governance”, Ramkarran, a member of the PPP for nearly 50 years before quitting, said.
A campaign based on youth development, he contended, would be difficult to sustain considering the difficulties at the premier institution for youth, the University of Guyana. Ramkarran posited that this part of the electorate is essential for victory and it is only going to be convinced by credible and cogent arguments, “not by a raucous platform of abuse, insults, defamation and lewd dancing on stage, or the spectacles of Kwame McCoy and Gail Teixeira dancing on stage to music provided by the Shakti Orchestra, or a ‘dutty wine’ administered by Destra.”
A former two-term Speaker of the National Assembly, Ramkarran argued that the PPP has given no sign that it has learnt the lesson of its loss in 2011.
“Believing that it was impossible to lose elections again, it allowed its organizational capacity to degenerate. Concluding that it is only its weak organizational output in 2011 that caused its loss, it has worked hard to restore its capacity. But even if it has now improved, organizational capacity alone will not cause former supporters who do not want to vote to change their minds. Organizational capacity will not influence a voter to change his or her support from AFC to PPP”, he asserted.
He maintained that supporters were disenchanted with the party in 2011 and it was this that caused the loss, not poor organization.
“The question the PPP has to ask is: Have we addressed the causes for the dissatisfaction?” Ramkarran said.