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400. Editorial Note

December 7, 1964, elections in British Guiana resulted in Jaganʼs Peoplesʼ Progressive Party gaining 45.6 percent of the popular vote and 24 seats in the legislature. Burnhamʼs Peoplesʼ National Congress (PNC) won 40.5 percent of the popular vote and 22 seats in the legislature. However, in accordance with the constitutional tradition in the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth, the Governor offered the Premiership to Forbes Burnham as the person commanding the most [Page 893]confidence of the legislature as a whole. Burnham was asked to form a government, and he did so by placing his party in coalition with Peter DʼAguiarʼs United Force (UF), which had won 12.5 percent of the popular vote and 7 seats in the legislature. It took several weeks for the PNC and the UF to agree on terms for a coalition.

Jagan initially refused to resign as Premier and he did so only after an Order in Council was issued in London authorizing his removal. Jagan later held a press conference in which he promised strong but non-violent opposition to the new government.

In telegram 196 from Georgetown, December 10, Carlson reported that the most striking aspect of the election was the extent of racial voting. He reported that “in one district after another the number of votes for Jaganʼs PPP was approximately the same as number of registered Indian voters.” Carlson said that the cause of “such complete racial voting by Indians apparently stems from fear and distrust of African-led government” and that the PPPʼs propaganda and pre-election violence played on those fears and “created psychology which made Indians impervious to reason. Thus Indians deserted United Force with its advocacy of multi-racial approach, non-violence, and prosperity. Likewise rejected was Justice Party leader Raiʼs logical appeal to Indian self-interest to obtain share in non-PPP administration which was certain to come about as result of election.” Carlson concluded that the consequence of this racial voting was that the PNCUF coalition would have to govern without significant Indian representation.

Considering the future, Carlson was pessimistic about the depth of the racial cleavage in British Guiana. He speculated that while the Burnham administration would probably try to “demonstrate responsibility, improved government, and assistance” to all Guianese, it seemed unlikely that such an approach would lead to Burnhamʼs re-election within the next few years, “especially in view of increased number of eligible Indian voters at that time. Therefore it might be expected before another election Burnham administration may seriously toy with more radical solutions, possibly e.g. seeking obtain independence in order to tamper with the electoral system.” (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 14 BR GU)