People's Progressive Party (Guyana)
|People's Progressive Party|
|Founded||1 January 1950|
|International affiliation||International Meeting of Communist and Workers' Parties|
|Politics of Guyana
The People's Progressive Party is a political party in Guyana led by Donald Ramotar. The party has been in power since the 1992 elections and currently holds 32 of the 65 seats in the National Assembly. In Guyana's ethnically-divided political landscape, the PPP regards itself as "the lead (but not the dominant) party in a multi-party, multi-ethnic, multi-class, multi-regional power sharing coalition, which would seek to transcend racial, ethnic, class and ideological barriers."3 However, according to the BBC, it is supported primarily by Indo-Guyanese people.4
The PPP was founded on 1 January 1950, and was the first mass party in the country. It was initially a multi-ethnic party supported by workers and intellectuals.5 The party held its First Congress on 1 April 1951. Its Third Congress, at which Forbes Burnham unsuccessfully sought to become party leader, was held in March 1953.6 It went on to win the 1953 elections and Cheddi Jagan became Prime Minister.5 However, Jagan's radical social reforms led to the British authorities sending in troops, claiming there was the threat of a Marxist revolution.5 After the PPP won the 1957 elections, Burnham's moderate faction left the party to establish the Afro-Guyanese dominated People's National Congress, establishing an ethnic divide between the two parties, with the PPP left representing Indo-Guyanese. The PPP won the 1961 elections by a 1.6% margin, but received almost double the number of seats, leading to serious inter-racial violence.7
Convinced that Jagan was a Communist, the colonial authorities with assistance from the Central Intelligence Agency aided a campaign by conservatives and Burnham loyalists to discredit the PPP government. Riots ensued, with the hope of drawing a draconian crackdown from the chief minister. In 1964, the PPP again won an election in terms of percentage and total votes; however, Governor Sir Richard Luyt went against parliamentary tradition and invited the PNC in coalition with a small, white-supported conservative party, the The United Force.
Independence on 26 May 1966 did not bring needed political stability to Guyana. Following an outright PNC victory in the 1968 elections, the political scene became increasingly polarized by ethnicity, and in early 1970 the Burnham government declared a republic organized on socialist, non-aligned principles. This action co-opted much of the PPP's program, and, indeed, the PPP eventually extended limited support to the ruling party on the basis of appeals to patriotism and national unity. The controversy over this move led to the emergence of a ‘third force,’ the Working People's Alliance (WPA) of Walter Rodney, in 1979. All three major parties drew to different extents from Marxist thought, making the racial divide even more pronounced. The PPP remained in opposition during a series of allegedly fraudulent elections, which were boycotted by many oppositionists. This led to the deepening of the PNC's bureaucratic hold on the government and civil service, and some even accused Burnham of ruling as a dictator. The PPP only operated in relative safety after Burnham's death during a medical procedure in 1985.
A political ‘opening’ was initiated by PNC President Desmond Hoyte, and a free election won by Jagan's PPP was held in 1992. It finally returned to power in the 1992 elections. It retained power in elections in 1997, 2001, 2006 and 2011. A political deradicalization occurred as the PPP, PNC, and WPA evolved into social democratic organizations as opposed to Marxist ones. President Jagan reassured the United States with his newfound commitment to free-market economics, although the PPP remained close to the trade unions.
Cheddi Jagan died in office in 1997, and a new presidential election was carried by his wife, Janet Jagan. Janet Jagan became the first American-born (her citizenship was revoked in 1947) female head of state in world history, but her term was cut short by poor health. In 1999, she handed power over to the newly appointed Indo-Guyanese Prime Minister Bharrat Jagdeo.
A major scandal erupted in 2004 when farmer George Bacchus announced that he had evidence implicating the PPP Minister for Home Affairs, Ronald Gajraj, in the operation of ‘phantom death squads’ that killed up to 40 people, including the brother of George Bacchus. President Jagdeo quickly dismissed the allegations, although the PNC continued to push for a thorough investigation. Bacchus himself was assassinated on 24 June 2004, leading to further outrage and allegations of a cover-up by the opposition party, the People's National Congress. Gajraj resigned, pending an investigation by a government commission of inquiry. The following year, Gajraj was formally exonerated by the commission, which did however say that he had an "unhealthy relationship" with organized crime.8
- Watson, Dennis, and Craig, Christine, editors, Guyana at the Crossroads, Transaction Publishers, Jan 1, 1992 p. 77
- "Guyana voters head to polls to choose new government". BBC News. 29 November 2011. Retrieved 4 December 2011.
- Nohlen, D (2005) Elections in the Americas: A data handbook, Volume I, p354 ISBN 978-0-19-928357-6
- History of the PPP PPP
- Nohlen, p355
- Buckman, Robert T., Latin America 2012 Stryker-Post Publications, 2012, p. 210
- "Congress endorsed position of a people’s Party – President Jagdeo", GINA, 3 August 2005.
- "Donald Ramotar re-elected General Secretary of PPP", Guyana Times, August 13, 2008.