Maybe younger Guyanese will begin to say neither party works and we want something new

Dear Editor,

On Sunday, February 25th, 2018, Ohio Governor and former US presidential candidate John Kasich told ABC-TV’s ‘This Week’, “We may be beginning to see the end of a two-party system. I’m starting to really wonder if we are going to see a multi-party system at some point in the future in this country because I don’t think either party is answering people’s deepest concerns and needs. I mean, I don’t think it’s going to happen tomorrow, but I think over time, do not be surprised if these millennials and these Gen Xers begin to say, ‘Neither party works, we want something new.’”

I reference that remark against the backdrop of what is happening in Guyana where there may well be a growing sense of frustration with politics in Guyana today, and whether there is still need for another third party after the AFC.

Following the failure of the PNC, from 1964-1992, and the PPP, from 1992-2015, the state of our nation’s politics had reached a stage where 28,366 or 8.4% of Guyanese voters made a concerted effort to end the decades-long two party domination of our political landscape by electing the Alliance For Change to Parliament.

To some, it was a leap of faith, while to others it was a leap of fate. But to those who yearned for genuine change in the way Guyana had been governed after the British left in 1966, someone had to take the leap. Enough was enough. The 8.4 per cent group leapt high enough to shatter the political glass ceiling.

Unfortunately, the prorogation of Parliament in 2014 led to the banishment of the opposition APNU and AFC to the political desert without parliamentary authority or voice, forcing the APNU and AFC to team up as the ‘Coalition’, not only to survive, but to stop and unseat the PPP. The truth is that the state of our government under the PPP, after the failure of the PNC up to 1992, had reached such an unacceptable stage, someone had to take the leap of faith. Enough was enough. So, 207,200 voters gave the coalition a razor thin edge over the PPP’s 202,694 in 2015.

It was not a mandate, but more of a moral victory over a PPP swimming in a sea of corruption. It was a victory intended to give the coalition an opportunity to govern in a much better way than the PPP. But while the jury may still be out on whether the coalition is faring better than the PPP, I think it is giving the PPP a ‘good run’. Still, what do Guyanese think?

I have absolutely no faith or confidence in Vishnu Bisram’s polls, so I would like to encourage the local media houses to engage in periodical scientific polls to gauge the mood or pulse of Guyanese on the hot button issues of the day.

Here are some sample questions: Do Guyanese feel very confident, reasonably confident or have no confidence in the coalition’s governance capability? What percentage feels the coalition is inept or corrupt or both? What percentage feels better off under the coalition than under the PPP? Are Guyanese open to a genuine third party to end the domination of the two-party system? Do Guyanese believe a coalition-PPP Unity Government is worth a trial run over a five-year period? With oil appearing as the country’s new economic pillar, should the ExxonMobil contract be re-negotiated to increase benefits to Guyana and in a more transparent manner?

Editor, I did mention in the opening of my letter the momentous observation made by Governor Kasich about the potential role of ‘millennials’ and ‘Generation Xers’ in the formation of a third political party in the foreseeable future, and I have to admit that this is a fast growing group in America, which, if truly motivated to get involved in politics, could re-shape the political landscape in America.

I can’t say if the same motivation can be easily extrapolated into the Guyana political situation given that Guyanese traditionally supported the two major parties on the basis of race instead of socio-economic and ideological/philosophical issues. But if there is an awakening or consciousness among Guyanese youths, then the year 2020 could represent the perfecting of Guyana’s political vision with Guyana’s ‘millennials’ and ‘Generation Xers’ taking a more active role in the country’s politics and helping to define or determine their own destiny away from race-based politics.

I have long said that a young President Bharrat Jagdeo, at 35 in 1999, represented the break Guyana needed from race-based politics. He was almost one year old when Guyana experienced the 1964 racial disturbances. But he squandered the breakaway opportunity in ways that not only affected him personally and politically, but even the once invincible PPP, which may never taste power again with Jagdeo at the helm.

The coalition, which replaced the PPP, also represented another break Guyana needed from race-based politics, since it held up a David Granger-Moses Nagamootoo ticket showcasing a Black and an Indian politician working as a team to lead Guyana. From my long distance vantage point in New York, unfortunately, I have to tell you the optics are not good in this endeavour. Nagamootoo has been rendered a political token because State Minister Joseph Harmon dominated the political space intended for the Prime Minister on government affairs. Even President Granger sometimes appears to be a political token. It also seems as though only the APNU agenda is what is being executed amidst much stumbling, fumbling and bumbling.

Guyanese may be docile, but docility does not necessarily translate into stupidity, and there is always a remnant willing to make a difference when push comes to shove, as the 2006 and 2015 elections showed. ‘Hope’ is all I have left for Guyana and, maybe, like Governor Kasich observed, “do not be surprised if these millennials and these Gen Xers begin to say, ‘Neither party works, we want something new.’”

Yours faithfully,

Emile Mervin  

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