OPINION: Free and fair PNCR elections encouraged

Last Updated on Sunday, 14 April 2024, 18:18 by Writer

By Dr. Randy Persaud, Professor Emeritus

“What is all this nonsense about fairness?” – Forbes Burnham, 1968.

I read with great interest that “[t]he PNC is known for its democratic principles and transparency when it comes to who wishes to lead it” (Kaieteur News 4/12/2024). I suspect the writer was not referring to experience since there is no material basis to support the claim. It must be that the statement is intended as encouragement for the PNCR to conduct free and fair elections for its own leader. Aspirational rhetoric in this instance is not only propitious and timely for the PNCR itself, but important for the quality of the official opposition in Guyana’s National Assembly.

The plain truth is that the PNCR has always been challenged with free and fair elections. On the question of conducting legitimate elections, no one less than Linden Forbes Sampson Burnham once declared to the world “What is all this nonsense about fairness?” Burnham was responding to a British journalist who pointed out massive PNC-sponsored overseas voter fraud in the UK during the 1968 general elections.

Rigged elections is an institutionalized practice in the PNC/R, and now, APNU. The sad truth is that they do not only rig elections against opposition parties, but issues of illegitimacy have cropped up in their own (internal) elections. This point needs repeating. The PNC/R has had problems with free and fair elections for so long, and irregularity so normalized, that it has become part of the standard operating procedure! If we rely on recent leadership elections within the PNCR, charges of rigging in their upcoming leadership are now basically guaranteed, much like we know for sure the sun will rise and set tomorrow!

The following are direct quotations from the media about PNCR elections –

  • “One week after the conclusion of the PNCR’s 16th Biennial Congress, Dr Richard Van West Charles is charging that the electoral process was “fraudulent,” from membership registration to voting” (Stabroek News, 8/30/2009).
  • “Van West Charles’s campaign rejected the assertion of [Robert Corbin], adding that the party has been “hijacked through an illegal process by personal agendas” once again (Ibid.; emphasis added).
  • “As things spiral out of control at the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR), it is being alleged that the bodyguard of incumbent Leader, David Granger fired a single shot in the air to bring calm to the final day of the Congress at Sophia, Greater Georgetown. iNews was reliably informed that the majority of Lindeners, who are in support of Aubrey Norton, were allegedly prevented from voting today … and as such, began to protest” (iNews, July 27, 2014).
  • “The Linden delegation is claiming that they are under constant verbal attack by Granger’s supporters. One of the delegates, who prefers to remain anonymous told iNews that last evening, all the cards for the Linden delegates were secured and everything was in place for voting today. However, when the Linden faction turned up to vote, the majority of cards for Lindeners could not be found, and as such, they could not vote” (Ibid.).
  • “About two hours after a gunshot was fired during a commotion at the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) around voting time at its 18th Biennial Congress, Aubrey Norton pulled out of the race for party leader because of alleged irregularities and lack of transparency” (Demerara Waves Online News, 7/27/2014).
  • Concerns about transparency of PNCR’s internal elections have now become a regular feature of that party which is a key player in the parliamentary coalition- A Partnership for National Unity – APNU” (Ibid.).

The PNCR has a lot of sorting out in the months leading to their Congress. There is rebellion from within, with characters such as Ganesh Mahipaul angling for a taste of the big times. Older players, including Joseph Harmon and David Granger are in the mix, as are new aspirants like Roysdale Forde. This kind of chaos is normal during PNCR Congresses.

In many ways the infighting within the PNCR itself is not surprising. The main reason is that the PNCR is an amalgamation of factions, rather than a genuinely national party. At every election, this factionalism asserts itself. During the 2014 fracas at Sophia, Demerara Waves reported “The PNCR, in a brief statement, acknowledged that there were concerns about padding of the voters list that led to Norton’s refusal to participate” DM, 7/27/2014).

The PNCR must get its act together. The factions within it should make every effort to work out their differences. They should ignore founding leader LFS Burnham’s dismissal of fairness in holding elections. The party desperately needs to improve its reputation where election rigging is concerned. They cannot depend on the AFC to offer anything constructive. The AFC needs to make its own amends with voters for both joining the PNCR coalition, and then allowing itself to ‘sured,’ lured, and then bedded for five months into electoral banditry.

Dr Randy Persaud is Advisor, Office of the President