Touch and go 2020: Some extra insights from 2016 LAPOP

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…..

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