The two major parties need to become genuinely multi-racial

Dear Editor,

Noted PPP propagandist Hydar Ally has published a letter bemoaning the loss of two years of his party’s term of office in 1997 and now again in 2015. (SN, Feb 6). In short he says the system is unfair to his party, because his party had “won all elections in Guyana.”

What does “winning” really mean in a largely bi-communal society?

I will advance the argument that the PPP did not win any democratic election at all, if most of its votes came from a single racial group. We need to redefine the word ‘winning’ in a country that has a racial breakdown like Guyana’s. Let me put it this way: If Indians, for example, constituted 52 % of the population, and every last man voted race, then the perceived Indian party would always win. Africans whose share of the population is substantial would feel excluded and would never accept such a result.

Put the shoe on the other foot. If Africans were to constitute 52% of the population, and they too down to the last man voted race, they also would always win, and now it is Indians who would never accept that result either.

I know it is extremely hard to convince a partisan like Mr Ally (or any partisan for that matter) about the validity of my argument.

But this is the truth, we need parties to win not just a 51% majority, but more importantly, that majority must include significant multi-racial support. And the parties must also look and feel – and be perceived – as genuinely multi-racial, or else this thing will not work.

The political class in Guyana needs to understand that any viable governing mandate needs to be redefined to include a genuine broad-based multi-racial mandate. Mr Ally should use his letter column space to advance arguments and ideas on how to change the perceptions of both major parties – the Indo-ethnic PPP and Afro-ethnic PPP – to force them to become genuinely multi-racial and insist that they do what is necessary to win cross-racial support.

These heavily race-voting elections Guyana has had in its post-colonial history should have long ago been relegated to the dustbin of history. Why do the PPP and PNC refuse to change their politics? Well we know why. Here is one man named Hydar Ally who loves the old game, and would defend it to its dying day.

What about that asinine constitutional ban on post-election coalitions? Mr Ally is so blind to reason that he would not even call for changing that rule. Why? He supports the idea of his party staying in power even if it lacks a 51% mandate.

He bemoans the loss of two years from his party’s term of office in 1997 and now again in 2015, but refuses to acknowledge the defects of excessively high rates of racial voting for perceived ethnic parties in a largely bi-communal society.

Post-election coalitions are historically time-tested and work well. Britain currently is run by a post-election coalition. So why wouldn’t Mr Ally endorse this universally tested practice? What he is really arguing for is the idea of one ethnic group dominating another. Such politics will not last forever.

Yours faithfully,Mike Persaud

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