The sense of déjà vu cannot be avoided. It took a while coming this time. But the refrain by APNU immediately after the elections about irregularities gave a hint of what was to come. Notwithstanding earlier assurances by Opposition leaders that their examination of the Statements of Poll would not show that the final results would have been affected by any irregularities that they are likely to discover, they have now discovered that the election results are not a reliable basis to find that Donald Ramotar won the Presidency. What happened?
The PNC in its various incarnations has never overcome the legacy of a self induced belief, engendered by a long history of rigged elections, that it has the support of the majority of the people of Guyana. And at every elections it propounds that delusion, inducing in its supporters the unrealistic expectation of victory at the polls. The disappointment when the election results are announced, after they have been promised victory, has been so overwhelming to Opposition supporters, that it has resulted in extensive post election violence after three of the five elections since 1992. The inability of the PNC to accept that any election results in Guyana are free and fair, as has been decisively pronounced by every overseas election observer since 1992, as well as the highly respected EAB, is founded in its obstinateembrace of a myth of electoral rectitude and superiority.
The PNC’s legal efforts to alter the outcome of elections have fared no better than post election violence. All the cases challenging the results based on irregularities have flopped ignominiously. The only decision in which it gained some traction was the Esther Perreira case filed after the 1997 elections and decided in 2001. The Court upheld the numerical results but ruled to be unconstitutional the Voter ID law, to which both the PPP and PNC had agreed and supported in the National Assembly, and which the PNC disingenuously challenged in pique after the elections. The decision was hopelessly wrong as a similar law was upheld in Jamaica, but the appeal has not yet been pursued because elections were due anyway under the Herdmanston Accord. So neither violence nor legal recourse succeeded in overturning the voting results of any elections since 1992. What is it that can work?
The PNC must come to terms with its past and acknowledge that its astounding majorities in the 1968, 1973, 1980 and 1985 elections were not real and that not everyone would rig elections if given the chance, like it did. While this is a matter entirely for the PNC to decide, until it does so, its contribution to Guyana’s political development and discourse will be influenced by a perverse and self-imposed sense of victimization which says that it is being deprived of its rightful place at the head of the government.
The PNC, in whatever form and under whatever name, is not going to disappear from Guyana’s political scene anytime soon. It therefore has a responsibility, not only to its supporters, but to all Guyanese, to maximize its contribution to our political development. It has that potential and capacity. But the PNC cannot do so if it continually diverts its own attention and energies from serious political work into purposeless campaigns about the validity of every election.
Guyana has a new political situation which has given advantages to the Opposition. A unique scenario with many challenges has materialized. It offers opportunities for creative initiatives, for policy development and deployment, for demonstrating to the nation that it has the capacity to soar above its aberrant political postures. It was felt that the creation of APNU was inspired by an effort to overcome the legacies of the past that have held back the creative energies of the PNC since 1992. It now seems that such a belief was a mere hope.
Logically, APNU has to now conclude that the PPP/C Government is illegitimate. Therefore the starting point of its political work from now on could be a demand for new elections. An audit has already been demanded. Are we, like in 1997, going to have to postpone the development of Guyana to argue interminably once again over the terms and conditions of an audit of the election results, the composition of the overseas audit team and have the country holding its breadth while this useless exercise is going on? I cannot believe that this is happening again.
The electorate, in its wisdom, has decreed to the political parties that they must work together for the benefit of Guyana. It is clear that the message is that it wants us all to put our shoulders to the wheel and roll out the benefits which co-operation and collaboration can bring. Efforts to re-align the political and parliamentary structures, and the resistance to them, are expected and normal in this new situation. And so are the daily threats by the Opposition of imprisonment of Government officials for fraud and corruption. But it was expected that after these birth pangs of a new era were over, the parties would get down to serious work. Instead we are being taken down the familiar but sterile path by APNU that brings no benefits to anyone, most of all its own supporters.
The EAB’s Report on the elections, which came out after APNU’s ‘findings,’ concluded that the results reflected the will of the electorate. The EAB examined the same material that APNU has examined, and arrived at startlingly divergent results. This has been the unfortunate pattern since 1992 and the PNC/APNU continues to persist, unbelievably.