LATIN AMERICA REVIEW -- GUYANA: BURNHAM AND THE ELECTION

Created: 12/12/1980

OCR scan of the original document, errors are possible

GUYANA: BURNHAM AND THE ELECTION

President Forbes Burnham and his People's National Congress will emerge from the national election on IS December in an even stronger position, although eco-jomic problems will continue to work against the regime.

During the past year, Burnham has survived thethreat yet to his political power and has engineered the holding of elections with characteristically good timing. The election is being contested by the opposition People's Progressive Party led by Cheddi Jagan and small

Style

A shrewd politicalBurnhan has dominated Guyanese politics since he and his Afro-Guyanese party wrested power from Jagan and his East Indian majority party Burnhamhis minority-based position in0ewthat named him Executive President. While lending the trappings of democracy to his regime, the constitution formally grants the executive branchpowers at the expense of thelready rubberstamp legislature. ^

source of

copyrighted photograph ia Cuba_lnternational.

burnham makes all party decisions. he listens to many points of view, giving party members the illusion that they contribute to his decisions;.

himself as the model socialist leader in the caribbean,uick to offer recognition and assistance to the revolutionary governments of crenada and suriname. many caribbean socialists, however,him as an opportunist. grenada's prime minister bishop preferred to support burnham's now-deceased,opponent, walter rodney

burnham's desire toevolutionaryalso has ccme in conflict with the practicaldevelop cuyana. burnham has built his regime onsocialistcontrast to theofin recent years he has come tothat little economic assistance would besocialist sources, esult, he has modifiedof socialism to become more appealingwestern sources of aid.

thei on

process

jagan believes his people's progressive party must participate in the election in order to survive. e boycotted the referendum on the country's british-drafted constitution, leaving his partyoice in drafting the new document

that the only th burnham is through the electoral

15

Earlier this year the radical Working People'sand its popular leader, the late Or. Walter Rodney,erious threat to the Burnham government. acially mixed party, it attracted many opposition followers disaffected by Jagan's passivity, and many

addition to Rodney's killing,says the government was involved in thea Jesuit priest who was photographing governmentto break up an opposition rally. Opponentsthe government of setting fire toDevelopnent in an attempt to frame "

*The source of the above copyrighted photograph is United Pressanuary

0

The Election

Burnham has called the electionolitically opportune time. The threat poaed by the Working People's Alliance is on the wane, the public is politically andarty in willing to lend legitimacy to the contest Dy participating. Moreover,riorating economic situation has not vetaliability despite electricity ahortages, decreasedand the scarcity of consumer goods.

When he was faced with similar economic problems and greater political discontent Burnham postponed the parliamentary elections byeavily boycotted constitutional referendum. Although he now istronger position politically, hi. party has madeto ensure that it winseats

addition, recent constitutional changes assure his"party2 additional seats; the names of deceased members of the Jonestown cult allegedly were registered on votiets; and security forces will "guard" the polls, j

In recent days, Burnham party members and the security forces have disrupted opposition rallie-several of Jagan's party members'

Jagan's aversion to violence andTnemories fifbiCteV inter-party racial strife in thergue against election-related violence by his followers, but the Workinglliance has threatened to sabotage government industries and otherwise use violence to force voters to boycott the polls. Even so, they do not appear capable of significantly disrupting the electicr.. SU_a-

Prospects

Burnham's preeminence is such that he probably could have named himself President-for-Life when the newwas drafted. The opposition parties preeent little threat to his continued hold on power. He will not step

down yoluntarily even though he is not inbest of health.

Original document.

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