violent riots, Rural voters, general strike, Jagan, PNC
In 1953 Britain allowed limited self-government in Guyana. The People’s Progressive Party (PPP) was a multiracial nationalist party founded in 1950 by political activists Cheddi Jagan, who was of Indian descent, and Linden Forbes Sampson Burnham, an Afro-Guyanese. The PPP won the election and formed a government under the leadership of Jagan. His government lasted only a few months before the British government, concerned over Jagan’s left-wing political beliefs, reimposed an appointed government.
In 1955 a conflict developed within the PPP between Burnham and Jagan. Burnham founded a new party known as the People’s National Congress (PNC). Support for the parties generally split along racial lines. The urban population, which was largely of African descent, supported the PNC. Rural voters, who were mainly of Indian descent, backed the PPP.
In 1961 Guyana achieved full internal self-government, and the People’s Progressive Party (PPP), under the leadership of Jagan, gained a majority in the legislative assembly. In 1962 Jagan introduced a program of severe economic austerity that caused violent riots and a general strike. British troops were called in to restore order in February 1962 and again in 1963. In 1963 the disturbances took on racial overtones; people of African descent clashed with the Indian supporters of Jagan. Calm was restored, but the nation was left on the brink of economic chaos.
Following constitutional conferences between Guyana and Britain in 1962 and 1963, elections were held in late 1964. The PPP again received the most votes, but it failed to gain a majority. The British government thereupon called on Burnham, leader of the minority People’s National Congress (PNC), to form a coalition government.
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