The drive for ethno/political supremacy is so compelling that steps towards constitutional reform are hardly on the front burner, former Speaker of the National Assembly Ralph Ramkarran observed.
Constitutional approaches aimed at altering the existing system of election of the President and the structure of the State to encourage compromise and inclusivity in the political process is much needed in Guyana, however the willingness of the major political parties, though still diffident, will be tested in the upcoming process.
In his weekly blog ‘The Conversation Tree’, Ramkarran explored the correlation between the census report and the support garnered by the two main political parties over the years to make a rough prediction of how the future series of events will unfold.
He highlighted that the Indian population has declined from 326,277 or 43.4 per cent in 2002 to 297,493 or 39.8 per cent in 2012 while the African population has declined from 227,062 or 30.2 per cent in 2002 to 218,483 or 29.2 per cent in 2012.
Further, the Amerindian population increased from 66,675 or 9.1 per cent in 2002 to 78,492 or 10.5 per cent in 2012 and the mixed population increased from 125,727 or 16.7 per cent in 2002 to 148,532 or 19.9 per cent in 2012.
With this in mind, Ramkarran explained that the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) obtains its support from the Indian and Amerindian communities.
He said the Indian population declined by 96,924 between 1980 and 2012, that is, from 394,417 to 297,493, an absolute decline of 24 per cent.
He noted that the increase in size of the Amerindian population did not make up for the decline in the Indian population since Amerindians increased by 38,149 between 1980 and 2012, that is, from 40,343 in 1980 to 78,492 in 2012.
The difference between the reduction of Indians and the increase of Amerindians show a net loss of 58,775 or 15 per cent among the PPP’s voting support.
On the other hand, he said, the A Partnership for National Unity obtains most of its support from the African and mixed communities.
Ramkarran pointed out that between 2002 and 2012 the African population declined by one per cent whereas the mixed population increased by 3.2 per cent.
Therefore, he noted that the APNU benefited from a net increase of 2.2 per cent in the population on which it relies for most of its support.
He simplified that in numbers the African population lost 8,579 persons while the mixed population increased by 22,805, a net increase of 14,226 or 7 per cent.
Notwithstanding, Ramkarran said neither the numerical nor the percentage support obtained by the parties between 1992 and 2011 shows any basis on which it can be concluded that the ethnic population figures have had an impact on the results.
He pointed out that the PPP’s support went up from 166,340 in 2011 to 202,694 in 2015, reflecting an intensification of political work after its disastrous performance in 2011.
He added that APNU may also have increased from 139,678 in 2011 due to a similar intensification, but there is no way to tell what was the portion of the total vote of 207,200 that APNU attracted, since some of those votes were brought in by the Alliance For Change (AFC).
Ramkarran noted though that the speed of the decline of the Indian population suggests that the PPP cannot expect to sustain electoral and political dominance, even if it does so in the short-term.
In comparison, with APNU, the declining support of the AFC places the coalition in danger of losing a straight electoral battle with the PPP.
“But our political history suggests that, with an ingrained culture of ethno/political competition, APNU/AFC and the PPP will take their chances in the next elections,” he surmised.
In this regard, Ramkarran explained that while political differences and disputes are no worse in Guyana than elsewhere, the fact that one-half of the population feels alienated when it perceives that the other half is in power, hinders investment and economic progress.
Thus, he underscored the need for political reform as he ignited the anticipation for the major political parties’ involvement in the process.
“The intent and bona fides of the two main political parties will be tested in the upcoming constitutional reform process,” he stated.