The previous column utilized data from the 2016 Latin American Public Opinion Project (LAPOP) survey to gauge how people voted in the 2015 general election. I argued that if there is persistence in voting behaviour in Guyana, then the somewhat dated survey (mid-2016) could still be relevant for present analyses. The previous column discussed the percentage voter turnout for Afro-Guyanese, East Indians, Amerindians and mixed-Guyanese, as well as the “ethnic market share” of each of the main political parties. The survey shows – as do the previous ones in the post-1992 era – that there is a strong correlation between ethnicity and voting. Over the years, I have called this outcome strategic pro-ethnic voting. There is a “market” of around 12%, perhaps 15%, of independent swing voters. The same pattern was observed by Professor Ralph Premdas for earlier elections. He had a comprehensive study of the 1961 election in a book he published in 1995.
Persistence in pro-ethnic voting could occur because most people believe that their economic and cultural interests are dependent on leaders of their respective group winning the election. Intra-group social networks are strong in Guyana, resulting in the connection of opportunities for gaining jobs in the civil service, a house lot, the contract to clean drains in a locality, a government scholarship, rent-seeking endeavours and other goodies.
On the other hand, the political leaders themselves have to pursue strategies (make a credible commitment) that assure their respective base voters the goodies are coming if they can only vote for their traditional party. Over the years, I have outlined (as did others) how the PPP has mobilized its base by scaring it into conformity. However, in terms of actual deliverance, the PPP destroyed – by policy choice – the livelihood of its working class base while enriching a small group connected to the party…..