LETTER: Will voters trust third parties again?

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Dear Editor,

In light of their disappointment with the political behaviour of the Alliance for Change which seems to have been fused with or morphed into the PNC, several individuals of integrity have indicated a willingness, or are encouraging others, to start a new political party or movement away from the two dominant parties. I applaud those who wish to plunge into the troubled water of Guyanese politics. It takes courage to start a new movement to break from the discredited one of the past. Those thinking of starting or entering into a new political force must be encouraged as we need a new kind of politics (that) and a new breed of politicians who seek to provide real representation of people away from self.

But there are important questions that a new third party will have to confront. The big question is; will people trust a new third party in light of the AFC shattering their dreams of a new politics? A related question is; will a new party be a force to reckon with in light of our legacy of race politics and the betrayal of the polity by the AFC which claims to be a non-racial movement but has been absorbed by a race-based party. Other parties tried and failed until the AFC came to the fore. Another serious question is; will a new third party or movement be able to cobble together a party apparatus for political mobilisation, and can it truly represent the aspiration of those voters who are not racially affiliated. Or will this dream of a non-racial politics, which people like me have fought for all our lives, simply fade away just like that of the AFC? The latter is an important question given that any new movement will come up against the jagged edges of the race-based electoral juggernauts that will accuse it of seeking to sell out their race.  The attacks against a new movement will be geared towards denying votes to third parties.

Seeking to win over votes in Guyana is indeed frustrating. Both PNC and PPP have been very successful at populist mobilisation. Both purposefully used the motifs of ethnic identity and adroitly deployed it into a practical political mobilisation which so far has attracted a gullible people who fall for race baiting on both sides. But one must not give up hope for a credible third party or make no effort to change our politics.

To succeed, any new political movement must confront the race issue. A political movement must focus on assuaging the fears of the races by guaranteeing power-sharing among the ethnic groups and the parties. It is important that people feel they will be represented in government regardless of which party is in control of the institutions of the state. A new politics requires that all parties share in governance in composition in the cabinet and positions representing their percentage share of the votes. Such a concept of power sharing will encourage people to trust a new third party.

Yours truly,

Vishnu Bisram

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