The campaigns for the November 12 Local Government Elections (LGE) are winding down with reminders on the forefront. This is part of the efforts in the final push to get voters out and is crucial given that much is at stake as claimed by all involved.
Just recently, the mid-term elections in the United States of America were held following what can be described as a very bruising campaign. In many ways it was seen as a general referendum on President Donald Trump either for or against his policies.
With his party losing its majority in the House of Representatives, more than likely aspects of his agenda would be affected. Already there are talks by the Democrats of reining him in with a possibility of investigations being initiated. That briefly demonstrates the effectiveness of those elections and the impact it can have on the implementation of policies. It also highlighted how high the stakes were. Americans and the rest of the world will be eagerly following to see how it unfolds.
Same here in Guyana as the upcoming LGE in many ways could be seen as a reflection of Guyanese’s sentiments over the coalition Government. Since it came to office, many have lamented the fact that a once vibrant and growing economy has slowed tremendously. Numerous entities, large and small, were closed leading to the loss of thousands of jobs. Many farmers and vendors were saddled with steep increase in fees and licenses exacerbating their challenges.
Economic burdens were further compounded by the implementation of a plethora of new taxes making it very difficult, including those with jobs, to make ends meet. The economy is just one of the many areas of concerns as some social services also declined and fear heightened as crime continues to increase. The LGE therefore will be an opportunity to send strong messages.
The People’s Progressive Party (PPP) won in a landslide in 2016.
Following the 2016 LGE results, it proceeded to create new Local Authority Areas (LAA) and expand current ones in places deemed to be favourable to it and reduced constituencies in areas seemed favourable to the PPP. This was branded as a blatant act of gerrymandering with the sole intention of increasing Government’s chances and reducing the PPP’s. It was challenged in court.
The attempt to alter the LGE physical landscape to hopefully give the Government some sort of momentum in 2020 can be seen as a strong indication of its growing concern over another PPP landslide victory. That would be an official blow to Government’s popularity reflecting the high stakes at least from its perspective.
One of its minor partners in the coalition, the Alliance For Change (AFC), was taken to court by the PPP for alleged electoral fraud with regard to backers for candidates within the Whim/Bloomfield area in Berbice. Persons affiliated to the PPP claimed they were deliberately misled reportedly by AFC’s officials into signing the related forms. There were also allegations of some signatures being forged and persons names used without their authorisation. While the case was dismissed, an appeal was filed.
Given the circumstances, one may venture to ask of an alleged nexus between desperation and that incident in view of the waning popularity of the coalition. With the stakes as high as it is, ruling it out may not be easily contemplated by some. All eyes will therefore be on the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) to ensure a smooth execution of the electoral process on November 12 across the country.
One concern is, as seen when the Joint Services voted on November 2, was the absence of some names from the extracted lists for some polling stations. The expectation would be for rectification by November 12 of whatever may have been the reason. Disenfranchisement is unacceptable and GECOM has a responsibility to ensure it does not happen.
By extension, the Government will also not be able to avoid responsibility given what transpired, including the allegations of gerrymandering and the manner in which some leading GECOM officials were appointed.
It was noted that in the past, persons were either told that their names were not on the list or they were not slated to vote at the place where they turned up. Those conveying the information were either from a particular political party or identified by their attire to be reportedly from GECOM. In those cases, some voters were deliberately misled and turned away.
Mechanisms would have to be in place to prevent this and actions taken against those responsible. With the stakes already high, there is the possibility for that practice to be in play. The bottom line is that all eligible voters need to not only turn out on November 12, but to be wary of any and all attempts that could prevent them from doing so. Democracy is also at stake.