A poll of over 1,500 Guyanese last year suggests that almost 50% will vote against the incumbent Donald Ramotar administration at the upcoming May 11th polls.
According to the survey done last year for the Latin American Public Opinion Project (LAPOP), the largest bloc of respondents, 46.1%, said they would vote for a party other than the incumbent PPP/C in a future election, while 33.9% indicated a preference for the PPP/C and 18.3% said that they would not vote. Another 1.7% said they would deliberately spoil their ballots.
Economist Dr Tarron Khemraj reported the finding in his ‘Development Watch’ column published in Wednesday’s Stabroek News. Khemraj noted that the survey sampled 1,558 Guyanese and was conducted from June 4 to July 12, 2014. Those surveyed in 2014 were asked how they voted in the 2011 election and how they are likely to vote in a future election.
“One might be tempted to agonize over this sample as it was done outside of election season in the middle of 2014. However, we have to work with what we have since no one is conducting credible surveys on a regular basis,” Khemraj observed.
He recalled that in the same survey, in terms of how they voted in 2011, 45.9% said they voted for Donald Ramotar and the PPP; while 42% indicated they voted for APNU under David Granger; and 11.1% said they voted for AFC under Khemraj Ramjattan; while 1.9% voted for other candidate or deliberately spoiled their ballot. “These numbers are fairly close to the actual voting outcomes of the November 2011 election; hence, one can have some degree of confidence in the (LAPOP) survey,” he said.
The economist noted that the actual result of the 2011 election was as follows: PPP, 48.6%; APNU, 40.8%; and AFC, 10.3%. “Therefore, we can conclude that the LAPOP sample is under-predicting the PPP’s vote by 2.7%, over-predicting APNU’s by 1.2% and over-predicting the AFC’s performance by 0.8%,” he said.
Khemraj also noted that in 2012, another LAPOP survey was conducted over the period January 23 to February 28. That survey of 1,529 people asked how they voted in the November 2011 general election. They indicated 36.4% for PPP, 44.3% for APNU and 18.4% for AFC. “It is obvious the 2012 survey was way more out of sync with the official results of the 2011 election,” he observed, while questioning whether it was a mere sampling error or reflected something more sinister. “In addition, the 2012 survey shows a low level of legitimacy for the GECOM; hence all the stakeholders will have to be vigilant on May 11,” he said.
Khemraj also noted that several observers have noted that the sum of the two parts – the separate performance of AFC and APNU – will not be equal to the amount received in a pre-election APNU+AFC alliance.
He also said that the data resoundingly rejects the notion that all East Indians vote for the PPP. “We have raised the point in previous columns that the voting pattern reflects strategic ethnic voting, which is a manifestation of the economic ethnic security dilemmas that go back to a period after emancipation,” he said.
He noted that while the 2014 data released on LAPOP’s website does not give the voting preference by ethnic group, by 2009, a trend in favour of an emerging independent class of voters was observed. “A substantial 19% of East Indians now support a party except the PPP. Their support of the PPP declined to 68.7%. African Guyanese support for the PNC also declined slightly to 71.5%, while 35.4% prefers another party. Mixed voters have also demonstrated less support for both the PPP and PNC, increasing substantially their support for the AFC. The survey suggests that Amerindians are less identified with the three main parties, which is a curious trend. We would need data beyond 2009 to see whether this continues,” he said.
Stabroek News had previously reported, based on the same LAPOP survey, that the proportion of Guyanese in a representative sample who identified themselves as being Indo-Guyanese was 39.5%, Afro-Guyanese 27.2% and of mixed race 24.5%.
According to Khemraj, these trends are suggestive of an emerging middle range of voters who might possibly swing the election, thereby resulting in regular democratic turnover. “In my opinion, democratic turnover will be the most important political development since 1953. I hope LAPOP will make available the ethnic voting trends after 2009. The class of swing voters will be valuable for the entire society and they will discipline the political leaders.
These independent voters play a crucial role in democracy elsewhere in the Caribbean, perhaps providing the main reason why the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago was forced to fire several ministers.
In Guyana the incumbent PPP government does not have an incentive to govern progressively because a previous reliable ethnic vote bank guaranteed victory. Hence, no minister ever gets fired in Guyana no matter how egregious the offence,” he said.