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Political cleavages and political mobilisation in Guyana : the 1968 general election Greene, John Edward

Abstract

This study is about the 1968 General Election in Guyana. It argues that while racial cleavage within the society is the single most important determinant of political behaviour, party organisation provides the motive force behind 'the people's choice'. Using aggregate and survey data, the study shows that between 1953 (when the first election under universal adult suffrage was held) and 1968, party identification and political mobilisation had shifted from those based on class antagonism to those based on racial disaffection. However, the change in the electoral machinery — from a system of plurality voting to proportional representation — has forced parties to reform their campaign strategy. The emphasis is on votes gained rather than on seats won. As a result, the local party organisations have become important sources of electoral mobilisation. The victory of Burnham's People's National Congress over Jagan's People's Progressive Party, and D'Aguiar's United Force, is partly explained by the greater impact on the electorate, of the former than the latter. The PNC benefited most from the switching of party support which occurred between the 1964 and 1968 elections, i.e., a switch of party support across the traditional lines of race. Therefore, that the political system of Guyana has not disintegrated is partly because there is this marginal element in the electorate willing to identify across the racial boundaries of party support. The system is saved also by the fact that political patronage is used as a bait to attract and maintain support across racial lines and by the small but articulate band of "political dissenters" whose ideal is to broaden the base of political support more in terras of class than of race.

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