As expected the PPP/C and its leader Bharrat Jagdeo have decided to intensify their hostile campaign of lies and misrepresentation of facts directed in part against GECOM’s Chairman, Retired Justice James Patterson, and those Commissioners in GECOM not under the control of the PPP/C. With no justification, they are raising the often repeated “red herring” of GECOM/PNC rigging of elections.
Mr. Jagdeo and his party are well aware that the 1992 elections, which resulted in the PPP/C’s return to power, marked the end of the PNC dominance and control of Guyana’s election process and that party’s ability to rig elections. Equally important, the changed international political situation i.e. the end of the Cold War between the USA and the USSR saw political leaders in countries like Guyana who were previously aligned to one of the two superpowers, primarily on ideological, economic and political self interests, and presumably, in the belief that their country’s sovereignty was guaranteed by the country they chose to align with, conveniently and opportunistically switching their support to new political masters in pursuit of their political ambitions. The Marxist PPP party under Dr. Cheddi Jagan was able to arrive at an accommodation with the US State Department which guaranteed that country’s noninterference in the 1992 elections thereby paving the way for 23 years of the PPP’s vicious hegemony of the political process in Guyana.
In those twenty-three years of the PPP regime manipulation at election time became a more sophisticated art that was practiced by the new controllers of GECOM’s machinery. While it is true that the Elections Commission was no longer the commission of the old days it is important to note that its senior staff for the greater part of that period, was dominated by persons of Indian Guyanese origin, while the composition of staff members at the lower levels was and are the same. Unlike what Robeson Benn claims the composition was not then and is not now 90% African Guyanese. It is also important to note that the confusion around the results of the elections from 1997 to 2011 must be blamed on those who controlled the process at GECOM for that period. Almost all of whom were PPP/C members and supporters.
The present reality, locally, regionally and internationally, militates against any attempt to rig elections. Any government which chooses to go in that direction will invite the collective wrath of all the international agencies and governments which now express their abhorrence for rigging (except in their satellite states) and consider a change at the governmental level as a fundamental right of citizens around the world. The APNU+AFC coalition government even if it so desires, cannot successfully rig the upcoming Local Government Elections, more so, the 2020 General and Regional Elections. The eyes of the world are on them.
The question Guyanese need to ask is – why, in spite of these known facts, is Jagdeo and his party ramping up the cry of “rigged elections”? The answer I believe is three dimensional and is rooted in what has gone before. First, I will submit here that historically, the PPP leadership has, when in opposition, always sought to use the cry of rigging as one of its primary methods to mobilize its traditional base in the population. This approach for that party has proven to be an effective political/racial weapon in the context of Guyana’s politics.
Secondly, while some may be of the view that Jagdeo’s ranting and raving of the possibilities of the forthcoming elections being rigged is just about him rehearsing from the PPP/C playbook, this is a simplistic view of the PPP/C’s Leader intentions. Jagdeo is an extremely, cunning, devious and vicious political person and is not averse to adopting certain approaches to achieve his objectives. He believes that there is a growing political disconnect and apathy in the APNU+AFC constituency and is seeking to exploit what he sees as a great opportunity to create more problems in the coalition’s support base. By raising the spectre of election rigging by the coalition camp he is also attempting to lure coalition supporters into a sense of complacency and the belief that the results of both the 2018 local government Elections and the 2020 General and Regional elections have already been determined in the coalition’s interest and as a result, there is no need for them to organize their communities to take the ongoing registration exercise seriously while putting themselves in a state of readiness to turn out and vote in large numbers in those elections.
Thirdly, I believe that Jagdeo’s descent into his expressions of racial bile is deliberately designed to force his arrest by the security forces on some kind of charge. The arrest he believes will force those in his traditional support base who continue to be skeptical of his intentions, to finally line up behind him thereby providing him with the solid support base he is in search of.
To neutralize Jagdeo’s behaviour and the PPP/C’s propaganda the APNU+AFC has to (a) counter with its own campaign to convince its supporters that every vote is needed to win the 2020 General and Regional Elections; (b) craft a message that election rigging is not an alternative. This message must be clear, concise and consistent; (c) coalition supporters must be told what are the objectives of Jagdeo’s and the PPP’s propaganda blitz; and (d) the coalition government must ensure that it does not fall prey to the trap that Jagdeo is setting for it, by arresting him. That matter will eventually resolve itself.
Jagdeo and his cohorts who dominate the PPP/C leadership feel very comfortable with their heinous political plot of crying rigged elections as a way of defeating the APNU+AFC. In their opinion, this will guarantee victory in the forthcoming elections and particularly in 2020. While seeking to demobilize the APNU+AFC base with the false cry of rigged elections, Jagdeo in so doing may also succeed in demobilizing his party base.