WE were reminded by Mr Carl Greenridge in Saturday’s edition of this newspaper that elections have consequences.

Speaking at the PNCR’s weekly press conference, the former Minister of Foreign Affairs cited the experience under the previous government as a stark reminder of the importance of elections: “Elections have consequences…In 2015, the PPP was removed from office because after 23 years they had accumulated and unenviable record of scandal, dishonest practices, corruption and human rights abuses. While in office, assets acquired by senior PPP government officials and corrupt businesspeople bore no relationship to their incomes and earnings. One only has to look at the mansion that Irfaan Ali built after just one year as a government minister. We are not going back.”

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Mr Greenridge’s exhortation is most timely. As we head into the festive season, we should not lose sight of the fact that there is an election in less than three months. The consequences of that election will determine the short to medium-term fate of this country and by extension the wider Anglophone Caribbean. Mr Greenridge’s reminder of the nature and content of governance under the PPP stands in contrast to that of the current government, which has sought to correct the deep scars inflicted upon our country.

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Given the sometimes sharp edge of our politics, many citizens have over time become very cynical about elections. Too often, political parties have made grand promises at election time only to disassociate themselves from them once they attain office. And given the ethnic voting patterns, some have concluded that there is little room for voting based on the issues that the country faces. In a real sense, our people have been let down by the inability of successive governments to grasp the need for a politics that inspires confidence among the people, especially those at the bottom of the social ladder.

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Yet, in the last analysis, elections do matter. The vote is one of the few effective tools in the hands of citizens. It is the primary basis of governmental change in an open, democratic society. The vote was attained after centuries of bitter struggles for the full humanity of the enslaved and the colonised. It was part of the right of self-determination that gripped the world for most of the 20th century. Without the vote, citizens could not determine who governed them.

Those who monopolised power attached conditions to the right to vote in order to maintain their iron grip on the society and its political economy. In colonial Guyana, the property qualification was attached to that right—only those who owned property could vote. This meant that the vast majority were intentionally denied the right to determine who governs them. This denial of a basic human right only came to an end at the 1953 election, when for the first time the franchise became universal. This achievement was a central aspect of decolonisation.

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The vote determines who governs and who governs determines the shape, tone and content of the government. It is well known that in Guyana, government is the most critical player in national development: it determines who gets what, when and how. This was most visible under the PPP’s rule when, as Mr Greenridge reminds us, that party turned the government into a medium for the decadent form of politics since the advent of independence in 1966. It took the vote at the 2015 election to rid the country of that scourge. That election turned the tables on the traditional ethno-based monopoly that the PPP had hitherto taken advantage of. It was a combination of cross-over voting and increased voter turnout that made the difference.

The change of government brought a new dispensation to Guyana. The political thuggery that dominated governance at the highest level has been dispensed with. The ethnic dominance that formed the ideological underpinnings of the PPP’s thinking and political practice has been erased from the governmental landscape. Normality has been restored to the country’s politics—Guyana breathes again.

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As we prepare for the coming election, the attitude of 2015 must be replicated. The choice could not be clearer—we ether choose to press forward with what has been restored and advanced since 2015, or we go back to the scary times of the immediate past. That decision is in the hands of the electorate. What is certain is that it would be perhaps the most consequential election in our post-colonial experience. Every vote is valid. Each good choice cancels out the bad choices.

As the benefits from oil and gas begin to take hold, who governs would determine whether those benefits are pilfered for the benefit of the few or turned into liberation for the many. The former is most undesirable—it must never materialise. And it is the wise use of the vote that will make the difference. At the end of it all, elections have consequences.

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