Guyanese from all walks of life will today vote in the Local Government Elections (LGE) that have been preceded by some controversy, but for which the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) is fairly confident that everything will be smooth sailing.
When this publication made contact with GECOM’s Public Relations Officer (PRO) Yolanda Ward on Sunday, she said she had just come from inspecting polling stations in the city, and she gave a positive prognosis for tomorrow.
“Based on my reports, actually all the polling stations are set. We’re hoping to at least conclude that exercise by this evening, to have everything in place. The operations tomorrow morning will commence from as early as 01:30hrs,” she explained.
“We have moved our containers with election materials to some central locations for deployment. So operations will start to ensure (the materials) reach all the polling stations by 4:00hrs, to ensure everything is up and running to open polls by 06:00hrs,” she continued.
Ward is confident all polling stations would open on time, since they have been on schedule. She related that GECOM staff have been primed conducting practice runs, and will be ready for persons when they turn up to vote. She has expressed confidence in the ability of staff that made the final cut.
“This is not (a case whereby) everybody who got trained got selected. This is that we trained persons who applied, and based on the score you got, that is how you were selected and placed in varying position, ranging from presiding officers to the assistant presiding officer, the poll clerks, the ballot clerks and so on,” she
“So it’s based on the score a person would have gained, that is how they would have been placed, in addition to their experience working in previous elections. So it was a highly competitive process,” Ward detailed.
Asked about expectations for voter turnout, Ward pointed out that it is the responsibility of the political groups to get their constituents out to vote. She was, however, hopeful of a turnout that would better the statistics of 2016. At that time, more than 500,000 Guyanese were registered to vote; and when the dust had settled, voter turnout was recorded at 47 per cent.
“For us at GECOM, considering the turn- out at the last local government elections, which was in the 40 per cent range, we’re hoping that number can increase,” Ward said. She posited that voter turnout is being impacted by many persons who are still unfamiliar with local government elections and their importance.
Meanwhile, Ward also shared statistics from the disciplined services voting on November 2. Persons had previously commented on the apparently low turnout; and indeed, there was a notable difference between the list of persons scheduled to vote and those who actually did.
Ward explained that 7,918 members of the disciplined services were originally on the voters’ list. This includes 4,673 members of the Guyana Police Force (GPF), 2,773 Guyana Defence Force (GDF) personnel, and 451 members of the Guyana Prison Service (GPS). One officer was dropped after being found to have been assigned to a no contest area.
Ward noted that, according to results from the voting, 1938 GPF personnel; 1022 GDF personnel, and 187 Prison Service ranks had actually voted on D-Day, bringing the total to 3,147 voters. This is less than half of the expected turn out.
Meanwhile, The Private Sector Commission (PSC) has joined in calling on all employers to ensure that staff wishing to vote are allowed to do so. The Commission noted that it is an issue that is important to Guyana’s democracy as a whole.
“In consideration of the importance of the imminent Local Government Elections to our democracy, wishes to urge all employers to release their staff, so that they may exercise their franchise and cast their votes in these elections,” the PSC said in a statement.
“The Private Sector Commission also urges all Guyanese to go out and vote for the candidates of their choice,” the PSC stated. “The right to vote is a privilege for which our forefathers fought and paid dearly. Let us not waste their sacrifices.”
The Private Sector Commission is one of several entities that had applied to be afforded observer status during these elections. Its application was approved by GECOM, and it has subsequently been accredited. This group also includes the Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU), the Canadian High Commission and the United States Embassy.
The last time Local Government Elections were held in Guyana was in 2016. The US Embassy and the British and Canadian High Commissions had fielded observer teams then. With elections expected to be held today, the deadline for local observers to apply for accreditation has long since passed.
It is understood that GECOM will declare official results from the LGE by Tuesday. Preliminary results should be expected much earlier; that is to say, three hours after the close of polls. The results are expected to be disseminated live on television stations in the varying LAAs, as well as in GECOM’s social media pages.
Ward has previously said that final results for smaller LAAs were anticipated by midnight on November 12, and the following day, November 13, for larger LAAs.
This year, candidates from 80 LAAs, consisting of 595 constituencies, will be contesting the LGE through a mixed electoral system of proportional representation and first past the post.