The PPP’s boast has always been that it never lost elections. While it gained the highest votes in 1964, it was the PNC that was invited to form the government, which it did in coalition with the United Force. The slogan of ‘cheated not defeated’ resounded through the decades. The slogan is once again rearing its head. The claim that it lost as a result of fraud allows it to maintain the delusion, for the benefit of its supporters, that it has never lost elections. This also serves to protect its leaders and policies from critical analysis and corrective action and revive its historic claims to victimology, now of an openly posturing ethnic political entity, to sustain the sympathy of its innocent supporters against the tribal hordes.
The fall of the PPP, though a shock to its leaders and members, which will take some time for them to come to terms with, was a gradual process and commenced in 1997 with the passing of Cheddi Jagan. He was the only person within the PPP who kept alive the flame of national unity by way of a coalition, despite the triumphalism in 1992 and a deeply hostile PNC. When he passed in 1997, those forces in the PPP that opposed national unity by coalition, gained total control and the subject was never again discussed. It was no secret that Mrs. Jagan was a firm opponent of any political accommodation with the PNC.
Another course had been available. In 1997 Mrs. Jagan had declined nomination as the presidential candidate and had recommended an option that could have seen forward-looking political initiatives and a different PPP orientation. But Mrs. Jagan was presented by Dr. Luncheon, supported both silently and vocally by others, a distinct minority, with the superficially irresistible argument that, apart from the option being unacceptable to them, the PPP could lose if she was not the candidate. He argued that the PPP had never gone to the electorate without a Jagan at its head; that the PPP had in her a Jagan who was available. Mrs. Jagan was then pointedly asked whether she wanted to take a chance of the PPP losing the elections by declining to be the candidate. Unfortunately she capitulated.
It was not a strategy to win the elections. That was a foregone conclusion after the outpouring of national support at Dr. Jagan’s funeral. It was, rather, a calculated manipulation to derail the option Mrs. Jagan had presented, install her as a one-term president, during which period the opponents of the option would have a better opportunity to position themselves in the anticipated succession struggle. It did not quite work out that way and any possibility of future political initiatives towards national unity was foreclosed.
The ambitious Bharrat Jagdeo, who followed Mrs. Jagan, had his own plans for personal greatness, which precluded the sharing of political power. Citing opposition by Mrs. Jagan, political agreements with the opposition were not implemented. But by 2006 he was master of his universe. Soon to publicly insult Mrs. Jagan, he had no opposition within the leadership. Instead of using his political capital to seek a real political solution, he wasted it by devoting his energies to micro managing, manipulating, dominating and, since early 2008, ensuring post-presidential authority and control by engineering the presidential candidacy of Donald Ramotar. But by then the PPP’s leadership had been tarnished and its image sullied.
After the 2011 elections the PPP could have recovered by pursuing a political solution, but it took the wrong fork in the road. Instead, Jagdeo campaigned on a disastrously flawed campaign strategy based on race. The end result was that the PPP leadership succeeded in gifting to the PNC/PNCR/APNU the electoral victory that had eluded it since its formation in 1957.
The bare nod given in the direction of reform at its recent Central Committee meeting signifies no serious intent. Any substantial reform based on evidence and research, rather than broad and shallow generalizations, which is usually what happens, will expose the deficiencies of Party leaders and will demonstrate that, in addition to deep reforms and restructuring, cooperation with the government for development and constitutional reform is the best course for the PPP.
Instead of examining its strategy and leadership line up after the loss of 2011, the PPP degenerated into race baiting and presented the same leaders to the electorate. The presidential candidate was nominated again in 2015 and will no doubt return in 2020, unless the contrived effort to secure a third term for Jagdeo is allowed by the courts. Moreover, he will not loosen his control and the leadership has no will to confront him, even though they know it was he who lost them the elections, this time around as well as in 2011. He dominates every discussion, has the final word, and has loyal lieutenants. He is not going anywhere, anytime soon and will continue to lead the rest of the leadership and members, perhaps as a Member of Parliament, maybe later as general secretary and a future presidential candidate, like lambs to the slaughter.