Ralph Ramkarran, Stabroek

An inclusive governance system is the key to ending divisions and crises

By  stabroek news feb 10, 2019

I usually post these articles on Facebook on Saturday evenings. Articles dealing with political issues usually attract a great deal of comment. Those which criticize the Government are usually overwhelmed by criticisms of the views that I express. I do not normally respond because I write for public consumption and I am content to allow the public, at least the Facebook public, to express their critical views, without my intervention. Last week, however, I decided to change course for that one occasion, just to see what would happen. The result is that the defence of the Government against my criticisms, which were further explained, became more entrenched. My explanations of the differences between the Cabinet and Government were blithely ignored. My argument that the Cabinet has to resign was denied and countered by the constitutional provision that the Government has the right to stay in office until elections are held, even though the distinction between the two could not have been made clearer.

In most democratic countries where there are regular expressions of the popular will in elections, electorates traditionally vote in a recognizable pattern. However, there is usually a large swing vote and for various reasons, the traditional voting pattern is upended. This is happening today in Germany, where the social democrats have declined for a high of 40 percent support of the electorate to 20 percent today. This is also happening in many European countries, where there is a surge of political parties supporting white nationalist causes. While the fracturing of the traditional voting patterns is occurring in parts of Europe, there is an unusual popularity of the left in the United States and the United Kingdom that has not been experienced before, at least in the US. This lends credibility to the argument that the core problem is the growing inequality between the rich one percent and the rest of society, whose incomes have barely risen over decades since the start of the neoliberal era in the early 1970s. The appeal of the left in the US and the UK is due to their defining the inequality and offering solutions. The right wing see the problems differently. In the UK, it is immigration from Europe and the threat from asylum seekers which has led to Brexit. In the US, its asylum from South America.

In Guyana, as my Facebook experience shows, the economic issues that affect the electorate play a minor role, if any, in determining the popular will. Traditional voting patterns do exist here and are transmitted down in families. But it is far more rigid than in Europe and is based primarily on ethnic sentiment. Ethnic solidarity, driven by ethnic fears and insecurities, transcends economic issues as factors which can determine the vote of the electorate. If persons are negatively influenced by the performance of his or her political party, it is those on whom the ethnic grip is not as tight or who have been personally aggrieved by a particular act or policy. Therefore, there is no large swing vote in Guyana. It is only a small minority of supporters who would drift away from the two major parties, as has been proven in the support given to the WPA and AFC. To achieve more than a small minority, an issue that is compelling enough must be placed on the agenda.

Ralph-Ramkarran

The Guyanese people may feel comfortable and secure in their own ethno-political enclave. But they know that they have to perform mental, sometimes dishonest, contortions in order to defend their party and remain in that niche. This harms Guyana and Guyanese by forcing them into defending positions that they do not believe in or know to be wrong. One person on Facebook challenged me for proof that the PNC rigged elections, a challenge that is still today made by leading APNU officials and supporters. The need to defend the deviations of both political parties diverts Guyanese from open, honest and vital debates that are necessary for our economic and social development, particularly in the era of oil. No matter who wins elections under this governance system, exclusionary politics will prevail, suspicion and insecurity will dominate, lack of transparency and accountability will continue, fraud and corruption will intensify, marginalization and discrimination will remain.

Guyanese people understand all of the above and will support a governance system that ensures that everyone has a place at the table, that all concerns that give rise to insecurities are addressed, that ensures that the economic pie is evenly distributed, that Guyana obtains a fair deal for its oil, that ensures that our youth have opportunities to be trained and educated, that our women and girls are protected, that accelerated economic development are afforded the Amerindian people, that a balanced economic and social and infrastructural development plan is agreed by all and that adequate savings are set aside from our oil resources. Therefore, a constitutionally engineered governance system that ensures that no one is let out or left behind and that all are included, in a purposeful way, is the key to resolving Guyana’s enduring political divisions and crises and will receive the support of the Guyanese people.

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