Life will change after the elections
In a matter of hours Guyanese would be going to the polls to elect a new government. Ever since President Bharrat Jagdeo announced that Elections Day would be November 28, people have been busy doing things that people do in the run-up to the elections. They have been trying to convince others that their party is the best to lead Guyana.
They have been going house-to-house and most have been listened to. Whether they have convinced others would be known in a few days.
Amazingly, a mere two months before the elections people were saying that the country appeared tame and that it was hard to believe that elections were around the corner. Nobody seemed to say anything and people went about their business. There were no campaign posters, no jingles, no nothing.
Then suddenly there was a mad rush to put up campaign banners and posters and make jingles. The ruling party, the People’s Progressive Party/Civic hosted the first of its rallies and what a huge crowd it attracted. Then there was another, and yet another.
The third huge rally must have been the signal that the other contesting parties wanted. All of a sudden people realized that elections were around the corner. They started walking around talking about the good or bad performance of the government; about the promises that their respective political parties made and of course, they began to pay attention to the news.
They learnt that President Jagdeo was no slouch when it came to lambasting people opposed to him. He even found something to say about me, an ordinary reporter who merely reports on other people’s business and who tries to help those who run into problems with the authorities. Every meeting at which he spoke people could expect a vituperative attack on someone, most likely an individual who happens to support one of the opposition parties.
The President picked on the New Amsterdam mayor and got a mouthful in return, much to the amusement of the population.
Then came a few bombshells. Moses Nagamootoo opted to use another political platform as did people like Joseph Hamilton, Gillian Burton, Richard Van West Charles and even people like Phillip Bynoe, who at one time was firmly in the PNC camp.
The mood became tense as Elections Day neared. The television stations appeared to have run out of space to play the various political advertisements and the newspapers were no different. People saw the messages and many merely saw the photographs.
I tried to imagine the amount of money that has gone into the campaign and I realised that in the same way the business community looks forward to Christmas shoppers, the media looks forward to an elections campaign. All of them are going to be smiling all the way to the bank.
And as I tried to calculate the money I realised that there was no cap on campaign spending. There was talk about the country instituting laws limiting campaign spending. People on the outside recognized that the more affluent the party the more money it could spend. The government appeared to have an unending supply of money, because it had the most advertisements. The state media, when the computation is completed, would have played advertisements from the ruling party at a ratio of about 80:1 to the others combined.
Since political parties are not legal entities they cannot be audited. At the same time, it would be interesting to find out who the contributors were.
That apart, I wonder whether the voters are really keen on issues. There have been the manifestos but did the voters read them? I doubt that. What I do know is that corruption was the prime campaign issue. This happened to be the first time that the opposing political parties all zeroed on an issue.
For its part, the government campaigned on its achievements and the plans for the future. And as I noted last week, it continued to sign contracts right up to days before the elections. It protested this very action way back when it was in the opposition. It is amazing how things appear to be wrong when one is in a position to criticize but how that very wrong is glossed over when the complainant gets into the driving seat.
One deal involves the construction of a Marriott branch in Guyana. This hotel, according to the government, was five or six years in the making. Some people believe that the uncertainty about the outcome has led to the signing of all these contracts.
Others believe that it is a continuation of the mad rush to grab money that would not have been earned under normal circumstances. If that is indeed the case, a negative outcome in the elections would still see some people rich beyond their wildest dreams.
Suffice it to say that the media examination of contracts will not go away. The scrutiny will be intense. There would be no one who would garner the kind of cash that some have made in the past few years. I have seen edifices in the hands of politicians that their predecessors never dreamt of owning because they knew that their earnings would not have given them such luxuries.
That is why there would be people going to the polls tomorrow to see if they could curb what they perceive to be rampant corruption. And there would be those who would be going to the polls to ensure the status quo.
Had the polls not been so important I would have likened it to a clash of forces—the good forces against the bad ones. If good always prevails over evil then there would be change of the corrupt ones for the more moderate leaders.
Only time will tell.