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Tuesday, May 16, 2006
The Alliance For Change

A survey carried out in March by American pollster and elections campaign strategist Dick Morris together with Republican pollster Frank Lunz reportedly shows President Jagdeo with 40% of the vote, PNCR Leader Robert Corbin with 36% and the presidential candidate for the Alliance For Change (AFC) Raphael Trotman with 21% with the small parties (The United Force, the Working People's Alliance, GAP/ROAR, the Justice For All Party) sharing the remaining 3% (no breakdown was given of their respective votes and no figure was given for voters who had not yet made up their minds).

Mr Morris said that l063 eligible voters were interviewed throughout the country. The methodology of the survey was not disclosed, nor was it indicated how the question was framed or whether respondents were given the names of party leaders and asked who they supported. Mr Morris said that among Afro-Guyanese Mr Corbin polled 64% of the vote, Mr Trotman 27% and Mr Jagdeo 6% with others 3%. Among Indo-Guyanese voters Mr Jagdeo got 80%, Mr Trotman 12% and Mr Corbin 6%. That would suggest that Mr Trotman was attracting support from both the main ethnic groups. Among mixed voters the results were 43% for Mr Corbin, 33% for Mr Trotman and 22% for Mr Jagdeo. About 80 or 90 of those polled were Amerindians but Mr Morris said this was too small a sample to be able to analyse the data "so for technical reasons I did not comment on it." He expressed the view, however, that Amerindians would be heavily involved with the AFC.

No age breakdown of the sample was given though in an interview the day before the press conference Mr Khemraj Ramjattan, the leader of the AFC, had told this newspaper that the support base was mainly in the younger age group. He also said the party had commissioned two earlier polls, the second of which had shown support of 17% but he gave no details of those polls.

If the results of the survey by Mr Morris are even approximately accurate it would be a remarkable achievement for this young party. It would, as Mr Morris noted, shake Guyanese politics to its foundation in terms of the established ethnic voting patterns. It would also mean that in the space of a few months the party had secured more support than Mr Peter d'Aguiar's United Force achieved in the sixties at the height of its success, and would establish it as the most successful third party to date.

Is the survey credible? There is an enormous amount of disillusionment among the electorate with the two main parties who are seen as primarily responsible for the disastrous state in which the country finds itself forty years after independence. In principle, one suspects, there are quite a large number of people who would be willing to vote for what they perceive to be a viable alternative. Mr Trotman and Mr Ramjattan had impressed many with their willingness to stand up to their respective parties on issues of principle. It earned them a lot of goodwill and respect. They are both relatively young and personable. The turnout at the launching of the party at the Ocean View Hotel was sizeable and impressive and full of energetic young people. The party's newspaper `The Key' also shows a refreshing youth focus and a lack of baggage. It would, we believe, be a good thing for this country if this party did well for three reasons. It would put a severe crack in the existing ethnic mould of our politics, it would open up the political game and leave no party with an overall majority, leading to the need for dialogue and bargaining, and it would introduce new, younger people into politics who are relatively untainted with past hatreds and grudges. In one fell swoop it could liberate Guyana politics from the present morbid grip of the two main parties.

But we repeat, is the survey credible? More information should be given on how it was carried out and a breakdown of the ages of those surveyed. The new party must surely have its best chance and its greatest appeal with the young voters who for some time have seen a grim future for Guyana and are desperate for a change. It would certainly be credible that there would be strong support for the party among younger people of all races.

Only time will tell. A considerable amount of work has been done by the founding members but a gruelling campaign lies ahead which will demand energy, organisation and money. It is essential that time be devoted to the Amerindian communities who may now amount to nearly ten per cent of the vote. And it is not just a two- man party. As Mr Kwayana noted recently Ms Sheila Holder has established herself as a disciplined worker in politics and there are others like Ms Chantalle Smith, Ms Kathy Hughes and Mr Gerard Ramsaroop who have energy and ability. It is a massive challenge but it is greatly encouraging that this younger generation have had the courage and conviction to throw their hats in the ring and stand up to be counted. For far too long the only vote cast by bright young people has been with their feet as they waved goodbye to these shores.

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