THE AFC HAS BLUNDERED
There is now a real possibility that local government elections will be held next year. This is great news, not just because it would allow for local democracy, but because it allows for the political sails to be hoisted, the winds to be tested and the machinery of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) to the fine tuned.
GECOM can be proud of the manner in which it ran off the last elections. Given the high degree of suspicion over polling, given the critical importance of small blocs of votes to seat allocation, there is always a greater need in Guyana for almost perfect elections.
The greatest credit for the successful running off of the last General Elections must go to the polling officers in the individual polling stations. They have renewed the faith in the electoral system by ensuring that systems and rules were scrupulously enforced. These officials were mainly ordinary working citizens, the real essence of any democracy and they delivered an orderly and trouble-free election.
Since those elections, there has been a new registration exercise and thus a new register of voters is being compiled. The holding of local government elections, which now seems possible for the first quarter of next year, will allow for the integrity of this list to be tested.
One must expect that there will be some disenfranchisement since there were problems during the last registration exercise with many eligible voters not being able to complete their registration because of the absence of source documents. This is a matter which will have to be ironed during the claims and objections period.
The local government elections would thus facilitate a process of sanitizing the list and ironing out any kinks with the new voter register, thus serving as a trial run for the General Elections of 2010.
For the political parties, the holding of local government elections next year will also allow them to fine tune their campaign machinery and get in a state of readiness for the 2011 elections.
It will also see the emergence of leaders from within communities who can be wooed into the larger political contest.
For these reasons alone, it is highly regrettable that the Alliance for Change would make a decision to no longer continue at this time in the National Assembly. The Alliance for Change is not thinking straight. Just what pressures it can bring to the ruling party through extra—parliamentary struggle is uncertain at this time.
The AFC can hardly muster a credible picket line at the moment much less to engage in militant struggle outside of the National Assembly.
The AFC would be better advised to reconsider its decision to boycott the National Assembly. While the government may be shunning its views, the AFC needs to be in parliament to make the necessary points and to counter what the government has to say. More importantly though, it needs to be in parliament so that it can ask questions and seek answers to questions such as why is the government advertizing for expressions of interest for the sale of thirty five acres of land for the purposes of housing development. It needs to be in the Public Accounts Committee asking about the contracts within the drainage and irrigation sector.
The local government elections will virtually be a poll of the PPP’s popularity and thus the opposition parties need to be struggling on all fronts.
They may feel that their views are not being heeded in the National Assembly but that is the nature of the political system that we have in Guyana.
The ruling party must be allowed to rule while the opposition offers alternative policies and exposes the wrongdoings of the government so as to influence public opinion which in the final analysis is what will determine who wins the next elections.
Right now people are self absorbed. They have little stomach for extra-parliamentary struggle.
If you took a few opposition activists and ask them to go door to door preaching the gospel of change in Guyana, if you endow them with the persistence of the Mormons and the patience of the people of Tibet, they will still return to their campaign officers each day in frustration. The Guyanese people do not welcome door to door political salesmen and saleswomen. They will complain about not having time to listen to what the activists have to say.
This is all the more reason for the AFC to use parliament.