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American pollster and election campaign strategist Dick Morris (centre) at the press conference at Le Meridien Pegasus Hotel yesterday. With him (from left) are AFC activist, Cathy Hughes; Morris political consultant, Luiz Morales; AFC Presidential Candid

If general elections were held today, President Bharrat Jagdeo would win 40% of the vote; PNCR Leader, Robert Corbin, 36% and the Alliance For Change (AFC) presidential candidate Raphael Trotman, 21%; while the smaller political parties would get 3%.

So said American pollster and elections campaign strategist, Dick Morris who is currently serving as a consultant to the AFC. Morris feels that the AFC as a party and Trotman as its presidential candidate have an excellent chance of winning the upcoming general elections, taking a number of seats in parliament and ending voting along racial lines.

Morris made these statements at a press conference at Le Meridien Pegasus Hotel yesterday while giving a sketch of the results of the survey he conducted in March along with Republican pollster American Frank Lunz. A total of 1,063 eligible voters were interviewed throughout the country, which he said meant that about one out of every 750 Guyanese was sampled.

The methodology of the survey was not disclosed. There was no mention at the press conference of how many votes smaller parties such as the GAP/ROAR alliance, the Justice For All Party headed by television owner CN Sharma or the WPA would gather. There was also no mention of how the question was framed and whether respondents were given the names of leaders and asked who they supported.

Also at the press conference were Trotman; AFC Leader, Khemraj Ramjattan; Vice Chairman, Sheila Holder; media consultant, Frank Barath and political consultant Luiz Morales.

The survey is said to have a 95% accuracy rate and if every person in the country was interviewed the results would be the same plus or minus 3%, Morris said.

Morris said that among mixed voters the results were 43% for Corbin; 33% for Trotman; 22% for Jagdeo; and 2% for the others.

The poll, Morris said could have the tipping point that would be a revolution to shake Guyanese politics to its foundation and "if there is any country's politics that needs to be shook" it was Guyana's. He believes that Trotman and the AFC could get at least 30% of the votes at the elections which would effectively make it a three-way tie.

Two months ago Trotman and the AFC polled 17% of the votes according to a poll the AFC had commissioned.

Stating that most voters believe that the government was corrupt; drug dealers out of control; economic development lagging badly and the party in government was probably the only pseudo-communist Marxist/Leninist party in power in the world except for Cuba and North Korea, he said that the AFC offers the chance to assuage the fears of the other racial groups sufficiently so that change becomes possible.

Among Afro-Guyanese, Corbin polled 64% of the votes; Trotman, 27%, Jagdeo, 6% and others 3%. Among the Indo-Guyanese voters where Jagdeo got 80% of the votes; Trotman got 12% and Corbin 6%, indicating, he said, that Trotman was demonstrating an ability to pull from both sides of the ethnic divide.

Earlier in his introductory remarks, Morris said that he could not think of another country in the world that has a fully integrated civil society like Guyanese where Indo and Afro Guyanese go to school together, play together, work for each other in business together and even inter-marry, but could not get along in politics. To see political polarization along a racial line was unique in the world.

Morris said when they probed further about the political parties in the country, they found there was huge discontent from a quarter to a third from the Indo-Guyanese voters with the PPP, while half of the Afro Guyanese voters were discontented with the PNCR.

Among the Indo Guyanese, half said there was too much corruption in the PPP; 38% of Indo-Guyanese voters said the PPP had "let drug dealers get too much power;" 25% of Indo-Guyanese voters said the PPP had been in power for too long; 27% said the PPP "does not do a good job of addressing the real needs of the Indian community;" 46% of Indo-Guyanese voters said the PPP keeps power "only because Indian voters feel it is the only way to avoid the repression which we experienced in the 70s and the 80s"; and 35% of Indo Guyanese voters say it would be better to replace the PPP with "an ethnically balanced party."

These numbers, he said, gave the impression that it was possible for the AFC to peel off about a quarter or a third of the Indo-Guyanese votes if there is a genuine bi-racial multi-ethnic alternative party to vote for. The reason for hanging on and voting for the PPP is because they are scared to death of what would happen if the PNCR ever took office. Most of them do not believe that the PNCR could change; that Corbin could grow new spots; and they continue to vote for a party they do not like much but feel they need because the alternative would be to surrender the role of governing to a group of politicians they do not trust.

Among Afro-Guyanese voters, 37% said the PNCR has not really "changed since the days of repression and has not learnt its lesson;" 45% said it would be better to replace the PNCR with an ethnically balanced party;" which gives an indication that there was a real recognition among Afro-Guyanese that the PNCR cannot win the elections, he said.

Forty-nine to thirty-five mixed voters believe that the PNCR "keeps losing elections because of its past;" and 40 to 38 agree that "Indian voters and those of mixed or Indigenous ancestry will not vote for the PNCR because of its past."

Noting that the polls focused on Indo and Afro Guyanese and did not take into account the views of the Indigenous peoples who represent 10% of the country's population and how they would affect the polls, Morris said that he thought that the Indigenous peoples would be supportive of the AFC. "But I don't know that because we had too few in our polls for a statistically significant amount. We polled 1,000 people. We had about 80 or 90 who were Indigenous, which is what it should be, but it was too small a group to be able to analyse the data. So for technical reasons I did not comment on it. But I bet my bottom dollar they would be heavily involved with the AFC."

Asked how much he was being paid to assist in the AFC campaign, Morris said he decides every elections cycle that he would do one campaign pro bono where he would be reimbursed for travel, accommodation and polling but an actual fee, "I wouldn't charge one." He added that Guyana couldn't pay a fee even if he charged one and even if the AFC won it wouldn't be able to pay him. "So, it's no great loss," he said. His previous free service offered was in the Ukraine and Mexico.

Asked about his history of losses, he said he has made about 100 mistakes but did predict a number of victories, which he assisted in. These included President Bill Clinton's re-election; Vicente Fox in Mexico; and others that ended years and decades of political domination in Argentina, Taiwan, Japan, Ukraine and Romania.

On the detection of electoral fraud, Morris said that in Guyana "we are going to do an exit poll on election day, which is going to be an extensive poll and very expensive poll that would predict the results of the elections extraordinarily accurately and the government wouldn't have a chance to monkey with the numbers because the exit poll results would be released five minutes after the polls closed." He said that a similar exercise was done in Mexico and the government did not have a chance to adjust the numbers. The exit poll showed a victory by seven points and four million people in Mexico City demonstrated that night and the government could not come out three days later with the results.