Sunday, August 29, 2010

Dysfunctional Opposition Parties and Political Schizophrenics

(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 29 August 2010)

It gives me a headache whenever I ponder the condition of the opposition parties in Guyana. The frustrating political impotence, hodgepodge antics, head-spinning personality eccentricity and all around nerve-wracking extravaganza are enough to give anyone a permanent migraine.

It is difficult to put a finger on exactly what it is that causes the opposition parties to seem so dysfunctional. Perhaps it is because they appear to be so very out of sorts a majority of the time. Sometimes it is like watching a circus and one cannot even guess as to what will happen next.

It certainly is not unheard of to have an opposition party make a decision one day that changes the very next day. For example, will the AFC join an alliance with other parties for the upcoming elections? Yes, no, maybe…down the road…it cannot be ruled out. How can anyone know what to think about the AFC when those in charge do not even know what they think?

I can say this much, I would find it very difficult to cast my vote for a party when they might decide tomorrow on a whim to change their stance – again. I am not even a voter in Guyana, but I still have strong feelings about whether the AFC decides to join an alliance that would include the PNC. If it matters that much to me, it matters even more to voters. I would be very put out if midway through the campaign season the AFC changes its mind again. For goodness sake, just make a decision and stick to it so the voters know where the party stands.

Yet still, on the subject of dysfunctional political parties, perhaps it is the lack of a unified front that makes Guyana’s opposition parties seem eccentric. Sure democracy within the party is vital, and I am certainly not one to toe the party line, but once a decision is democratically determined, present a unified front to the voters, or they will think the party is politically schizophrenic. This executive member says one thing, another leader says something else and the spectacle goes on and on. Really, it’s just embarrassing to watch.

When announcing that decision, own it. If you are a leader, then lead. Pussyfooting around undermines voter confidence. For example, the PPP struts around like it is the best thing since the invention of roti. You don’t see them dragging their heels (not in public anyway). So when the PPP goes into a flooded village (even one that has flooded multiple times) and tells the people that it cares about their plight, the villagers believe the words they are told and even marvel at the compassion of their leaders.

True, the PPP has all the money, all the power and, obviously, all the self-confidence – but it really is tough to follow a leader who doesn’t seem to know where she or he is going. I am not suggesting for one second that the opposition parties should pretend to know where they are leading their constituents. I am saying they should already know – and if they do not know, then move out of the way and make room for leaders who do know. Voters want leaders who have the capacity to take action.

Hmm, that makes me wonder if it could be complacency that makes the opposition parties appear so dysfunctional. Nary a word is heard from the PNC – in every day life, or in Parliament – and sometimes one has to wonder if the party has curtsied to the PPP for so long that it has become a lapdog. I do understand that to get a little, the PNC might have had to give up a lot – but it is the voice of their constituency that gets lost in the process.

On the other hand, we have the PPP. The opposition parties (and Freddie) can fool themselves and say the PPP has done nothing to improve the life of the Guyanese. However, all a person has to do is take an honest look around to see how much development has taken place since the last election. The ruling party has been working hard while the leaders of the opposition parties still cannot even sing the same tune with others in their own party.

Sure, the advancements might be lopsided and favour the constituency of the ruling party, but PPP voters will not even be looking far enough to see that – and might not even care if they did. The PPP constituency can see the improvements around them with their own two eyes and could care less about the relentlessly bumbling opposition circus.

It is no wonder the ruling party is so cocky. The PPP knows full well that it will not lose even one of its faithful votes – no matter how much they embarrass the nation with their unseemly behaviour – as long as the opposition parties run around looking more like uncoordinated, unsure, awkward teenagers than mature, intelligent adults who can rule the country.

Election time is upon us and Guyana’s opposition parties should already be running like a well-oiled machine. All of the kinks should have been worked out before the start of this year, yet we have spent most of the year watching the circus and trying not to shake our heads in utter frustration as opposition leaders fumble one step after another.

My headache worsens. I have only one very small, but very important, piece of advice for the opposition parties – get it together.

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