I had posited the view in an earlier letter that race and ethnicity, even though critical variables in terms of voting preferences, should not be considered immutable and a permanent fixture in our political landscape.
My view on the issue remains unchanged, namely, that we should avoid the tendency to consider race as the main causative factor in voting behaviour. Guyanese by and large are mature politically and tend to vote in a rational manner. An opinion poll done in the early 1990s found that 67% of respondents felt that race was not a factor in influencing how they vote.
This finding, it could be argued, is at odds with actual voting behaviour, but it does suggest that people in general are prepared to vote for any party that they can trust and which in their view best represents their class interests.
The issue, therefore, is fundamentally one of trust and even though one or the other party may have had a proven and demonstrable record of superiority from a governance perspective, that element of trust could serve as a mitigating factor in terms of actual voting behaviour.
Given the historically entrenched ethnic patterns of voting, it is quite a challenge for political parties, in particular the PPP and the PNC to make substantial inroads into each other’s support base. This can only come about if and when voters see themselves firstly as consumers of goods and services essential for their material and cultural well-being and are prepared to cast their votes for that party which has had a proven capacity to deliver the goods in a reasonably fair and equitable manner.
I believe that Guyana can only move forward when ethnic insecurities, real or imagined, are replaced by trust and when Guyanese see themselves, firstly as consumers of social goods and not as members of any defined race group. In other words, the instinct of loyalty and trust on the basis of race must give way to reason and rational voting behaviour.