More political parties approved for LGE 2018

…but less individual candidates, compared to 2016
…1700 polling stations expected to be operational

By Jarryl Bryan

With 56 days to go before Local Government Elections (LGE), the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) has received and approved a total of 62 symbols from groups and individuals contesting in the elections.
GECOM has confirmed it is in receipt of symbols from seven political parties, an increase compared to the three from 2016 that contested. In an interview with Guyana Times, the Commission’s Public Relations Officer, Yolanda Warde explained that they also have symbols from voluntary groups and independents.
“We have received seven from political parties, 21 from voluntary groups and 34 from individual candidates. However, one person withdrew. So we are now left with 61 symbols,” she explained.
She also noted that the withdrawal came from an individual contestant, leaving 33 individual candidates in the race. Warde also revealed that approximately 1700 polling stations are operational for this year’s LGE; an increase compared to the 1562 that opened in 2016. In terms of staff, she acknowledged that more polling day workers are needed.
“Hiring has not ideally happened as yet. As you know we are in the process of training polling day staff. Last week, in about 20 locations in Georgetown, 65 persons were being trained in each location.”
“As of Saturday, we will be going on the West Bank in Region Three [Essequibo Islands-West Demerara] and we will be having training every weekend over the next few weeks. But the actual number we’re looking to recruit is just about 8000 persons for polling day,” she revealed.

Voter turnout
Back in 2016, over 500,000 Guyanese were registered to vote at the LGE. However, substantially less than this number actually voted. The PRO was asked about projected voter turnout and what GECOM is doing to get more people involved in their civic duty.
“We have been active in our civic and voter education,” she explained. “We have been utilising both print and electronic media to channel that information. You would notice that every week, in the past nine to 10 weeks, we have been publishing a weekly column in the daily newspapers.”
“And the information is for preparing not just the electors but also the candidates. That very information has been translated into flyers and has been disseminated at the regional level. So there is information out there and as we get closer to elections we will be boosting up that campaign.”
Warde explained that the initial focus of education would have been on the candidates. But she noted that once nominations day is completed and the lists are approved, the focus of GECOM’s education campaign will shift to the electors.
“Information such as their eligibility to vote, how to vote, why they must vote, it is important that we do that and we will embark on (disseminating) that,” she further explained.
Warde also noted that the issue of spoilt ballots is being looked at the level of the Commission. In fact, she stated that tips on how to reduce this problem is being incorporated into the training of staff.

How it works
With LGE expected on November 12, nomination day is set for September 21. At nomination day, any group, party or individual candidate that did not have their symbol approved will be barred from contesting.
LGE will be held in all municipalities and Neighbourhood Democratic Council (NDC) in Guyana using a mixed electoral system of Proportional Representation (PR) and First Past the Post (FPTP).
The PR electoral system is one in which parties’ gain seats in proportion to the number of votes cast for them in a municipality or NDC. For someone to be elected under the Proportional Representation system, they must be on a party list or voluntary group list. Individuals cannot contest as the PR system.
Meanwhile, the FPTP system is one in which an individual gains control by the number of cast for him or her. These candidates can come from a party, voluntary group or as an independent.
Fifty per cent of Councillors for each municipality and NDC are elected through the Proportional Representation component, while the other half comes from FPTP component of the electoral system.
Under the FPTP system, an individual candidate can contest for only one seat in a single constituency in which he or she is registered and resides. Candidates can only be nominated for one group for the PR and FPTP list.