PPP Needs Internal Reform
Photo : Bharrat Jagdeo, Political Leader of the PPP
As I found in my studies in comparative politics- not just the PPP in Guyana or UNC in Trinidad- political parties in Third World countries tend not to have structured succession to allow for re-building and re-branding to expand the political base to win an election. In addition, their leaders (flushed with arrogance) have a propensity to alienate (even traditional natural) supporters as was the case in the PPP for over a decade prior to 2015 and the UNC in Trinidad and Tobago. Political leaders are not as much interested in party regeneration and growth but in holding on to leadership and maintaining control through the disbursement of patronage . Winning election is secondary to controlling the party. That was the case with regards to Forbes Burnham and Desmond Hoyte in Guyana as well as Basdeo Panday and Patrick Manning in neighbouring Trinidad. Guyana and other third world countries are saddled with intra-party dictatorship and personality cult similar to what took place in China, Soviet Union, Cuba, North Korea, defunct East Germany, etc. This does not bode well for political regeneration of a party like PPP in Guyana especially after its shock defeats in 2011 and 2015 and abandonment by large swaths of traditional supporters. Unless there is internal democratic reform and reaching out to those who were alienated, the party’s chance at returning to government is very slim.
Regeneration and power succession in a communist structured party, like the PPP, for example, is very tricky. Communist structured parties, even some bourgeois ones also, function under the old fashion system of Leninist autocracy. Challengers are seen as enemies and purged, and with that parties lose support. But leaders’ primary concern is not regenerating support. Control is of paramount importance to party leaders.
In Guyana and most Third World countries, party leaders don’t think about political regeneration because they don’t see themselves as ever losing power. They lose sight of reality and (will) would not listen to any rational, logical explanation of loss of support. Guyana has been a classic case. The political leaders see themselves as emperors who will rule forever not realizing they have lost their clothes. They are politically naked. But no one wants to bell the cat and tell the emperor he has lost his clothes and that it is time to move on and give someone else a chance to rebuild, and rejuvenate their party. One must give credit to Robert Corbin of the PNC. He recognized that he could not win an election having tried in 2006 and badly rejected. He stepped aside in 2011 and chose a successor allowing the PNC to rebuild, even changing its name; four years later, the PNC was and has been in power. The same has not been observed in the PPP although Bharrat Jagdeo represents the best chance to bring back many of those (traditional supporters) who stayed away from the party because of Donald Ramotar’s ineffectual leadership.
Intrigue and infighting had permeated the PPP leadership for over a decade. Instead of regenerating the party, the PPP purged Khemraj Ramjattan (2005), Moses Nagamootoo (2011), and Ralph Ramkarran (2012) and suffered the political consequences. It is inexplicable why the PPP alienated Ramkarran, the most respected political figure in its ranks, at a time when the PPP was reduced to a minority in the national assembly. That was when the party should have closed ranks and brought everyone back together. Instead, the party did the opposite cussing out even its own supporters.
In Guyana, as is also the case of Third World parties, political leaders see every constructive critic, no matter how well intentioned the commentaries, as an enemy to be destroyed and not to be courted for advice on how to better intra-party democracy. And even then they lose power, party leaders feel they still have one more knock out political punch over their opponent and want to remain at the helm for one more chance. But that one more chance never ends because it is followed by another and another and so on. Party leaders are confident they will win the next election because sycophants (coterie of inner circle) tell them so and they believe the nonsense from their political chelahs (bootlickers or gharpoochnas as they are known in Indian villages). Thus, party leaders often don’t feel they need political regeneration because they feel everyone in the country is supporting them and that they will win the next election until the results of defeat hit them and even then they are still in “political la la land”.
In Guyana, political leaders are so full of themselves, egoistic, hauteur and hubristic, they can’t see realty. For example, some PPP folks really believed they would win 70% of the votes in 2011 when it was clear they could not scrape 50%; having governed well and managed the economy out of bankruptcy as took place under PNC, PPP was confident that Africans would vote for it. One began to wonder if the party leaders had lost their marbles. And the same attitude is being expressed now. For example, one top PPP official recently told me that because of the mis-governance of the PNC led coalition, Africans are coming over to the PPP and the party would win the next election. It will not happen. The PNC misgoverned for 28 years (the worst governance of any Caribbean or Latin political party) and yet Africans did not abandon PNC to vote for a projected multi-racial WPA or an honest Dr. Jagan or DLM or UF or URP. Why the PPP leadership feels Africans would cross over and vote PNC now when oil revenues are on the horizon is beyond any logical explanation.
It does not appear there will be any regeneration in the PPP. And if there is no regeneration, reaching out to others and those it purged. PPP is not coming back into government. In fact, the ABC countries have given a hint to that effect. ABC countries are looking for people of integrity to link up with PPP, but the party leadership is not embracing them. If the PPP wants to improve its chance at the next election, it must give serious consideration to regenerate itself and by embracing individuals of decency and unquestioned integrity.