Government and Politics
GUYANA IS OSTENSIBLY a parliamentary-style democracy with a constitution, a National Assembly, a multiparty system, elections, a president chosen by the majority party, a minority leader, and a judicial system based on common law. Despite its democratic institutions, independent Guyana has seen more than two decades of one-party rule and strongman politics, perpetuated by manipulation, racially based voting patterns, and a disenfranchisement of the Guyanese people.
Since 1964 when People's National Congress (PNC) leader Linden Forbes Burnham came to power, Burnham, his successor Hugh Desmond Hoyte, and the PNC have dominated the politics of Guyana. Although Burnham paid lip service to an ambitious political and economic experiment, cooperative socialism, which was to develop Guyana to the benefit of all Guyanese, his paramount concern seemed to be the preservation and enhancement of his own political power. Burnham's true agenda became apparent in 1974, when he announced the subordination of all other institutions in Guyana to the PNC. The late 1970s and early 1980s increasingly saw the government system function primarily to benefit Burnham and his party.
After Burnham's death in 1985, the administration of Desmond Hoyte abandoned many of the authoritarian policies of Hoyte's predecessor. The new president chose to work largely within the framework of the government, tolerated an opposition press, and attempted to downplay the significance of rigid racial political blocs. Whether these moves represented a strengthening of democracy in Guyana or merely a tactical move motivated by economic hardship remained to be determined.
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