Both major parties, PPP and APNU, are confident of victory in Monday’s elections in Guyana. But which one will win? Each small party is confident of at least a seat. But will they get any? The nation looks to pollsters (like me) to open the crystal ball and say which party will win. An accurate prediction is based on scientific polling. A pollster can only offer a projection if the election will be free and fair. If elections were free and fair, there would be a clear winner given the socio-economic conditions in the country. But all evidence point in the direction that there will be tampering with the elections making it a cliffhanger.
Some of the most outstanding personalities in the country, from both sides of the political divide, give me their confidential views on the outcome. They are rational and objective. Ordinary voters also give their comments although they are motivated by ethnicity and party affiliation. Opinions varied on which side will win. People are calling it a victory for either side (with the size unknown but a working majority). Some even say it would be a hung parliament. Many even say the election would be rigged in favor of a landslide victory that would be enough to enact constitutional change; that is not possible. Those well informed and who conduct ongoing opinion polling and interact with officials know what will happen on elections day.
Which side has a better chance? Ordinarily, a government that was ousted by a no confidence motion and presided over the decline of an economy and loss of jobs would be against the wall facing the specter of defeat. It is indisputable in speaking with supporters from both sides — the government has seen its popularity dropped steadily from 2016 to now. Yet it is doing quite well among its base and even has retained some cross over supporters that it got in 2015. Bharrat Jagdeo has been able to rally back many traditional PPP supporters who abandoned the party in 2015. The government has run an effective campaign talking about the future with oil revenues and seems to have collared its base; it has all election related institutions on its side. The opposition has tried to make this election about the government’s record pointing to its superior record and promising a better vision for the future. The opposition has no institutions on its side. Even staff at Guyana Elections Commission (Gecom) seem opposed to PPP and many are compromised, as per views of voters. But the evidence suggests PPP scooping up large numbers of disenchanted voters and it will be hard to deny it has run a credible campaign.
The government claims its poll puts it in the lead. The opposition says it did not commission a poll but that its house to house ground campaign puts it in the lead. Objective polls conducted by this writer find a close fight but a victory for one party. But that outcome won’t pan out.
Both campaigns have been impressive with their messages. There is a tit for tat, but no knock out punches delivered although there were several upper cuts that were followed by counter punches. While one side enjoyed an advantage, the other side fought back. One side did get an upper hand – incumbent always has an advantage because they control the state (and its vast resources) and have the power of the purse and has used it effectively.
On the battle of crowds, there was no clear winner, with no knockout blows. The APNU-led coalition started out huge and then weaned off. The PPP started small and grew. The manifesto launches were not very impressive. They did not attract much attention and people don’t read them. Both sides promise an enhanced role for the state in the running of the economy and to provide such things as greater public housing, education, free broadband, cash grants, increased welfare payments, etc. Both promise to be on the side of ordinary people. But in reality, it will be something different when it comes to actual governance.
At stake is not just the oil, but the country’s very standing in the Caribbean, Traditionally, the parties write long manifestos containing detailed far fetched pie in the sky promises of what they would do if they won the election. They are never held accountable by voters. Just how much voters read manifestos.
As polling reveals, there is hardly any last minute vote to be obtained. People have made up their mind and a significant number won’t vote (fed up of the system) although there is a last minute scramble for votes. The last stump speeches would be delivered on Saturday but that won’t make much a difference. People are race and party hardened. Any floating voter not committed is likely to go three small parties that have a chance of a seat in their attempt to become a balancing force in parliament. But will these serve as a third or balancing force in parliament? That depends largely on the margin of victory; one major party is predicting a landslide win, meaning the third force will be wiped out.
The election is supposed to be in the hands of the voters. But will it? For those who do polling and in the know, the outcome is largely known. The outcome won’t deviate much from objective unbiased poll findings. The winner will be officially announced after Monday – we will see if the poll prediction is right or rigging determines the winner. Of course, it’s worth remembering I am conducting opinion polls, not real votes, and there is still three days to go before people vote. A turnout of mid 70s is expected.
Regardless of which side wins, people will look back and say how did this party win? How could it have won? What led it to win? I raise these points because the election may well be decided by illegitimate voting. Some people feel extra voters will determine the winner? Non-Guyanese have been registered, is a charge in many circles. Will there be impersonating of voters and multiple voting? Which side registered more voters and bring them out will have the upper hand. Fraud is not ruled out as it is the only way one party can win. Another party can win a free and fair election.
Gecom is on trial, under watch. It must deliver credible elections. It must take a stand against fraud. Whichever side wins should be declared the winner and allowed to govern.