The recent suggestion that Local Government Elections may not be possible this year is a serious blow to local democracy and a lifeline to the main opposition, the Peoples National Congress Reform, now going through serious internal travails.
Ironically, the ruling Peoples Progressive Party is likely to be extremely pleased by the delay.
Had Local Government Elections been held this year, it would most likely have signaled the beginning of the end for the Peoples National Congress Reform, which would have most likely have been decimated in the overall vote count, but which would have still held on to important seats in Linden and Georgetown.
The anticipated poor showing of the Peoples National Congress Reform would have had serious repercussions for the leader of the PNCR and this is not what the PPP wants.
The PPP will most likely favour its chances against Corbin in the 2011 General and Regional Elections and therefore this delay in the holding of Local Government Polls could be just what the doctor ordered.
The forthcoming Congress of the PNCR was expected among other things to consider the party’s preparations for the Local Government Polls.
This would have no doubt become intertwined with the issue of leadership and those challenging the incumbent leader would have added to their arguments on the need for change the fact that Local Government Elections are near.
This now will most likely be removed from the equation and while those opposed to Mr. Corbin may now wish to contend that there will be adequate time for the party to prepare for Local Government Polls under a new leader, it also effectively means that the anxieties about these polls will be removed and Mr. Corbin will have enough time between now and Congress to consolidate himself and put together a team for these polls.
The delay thus serves the interests of the PPP, since the PPP wants to run against Mr. Corbin in the 2011 General and Regional Elections.
The PPP believes that it cannot lose these elections regardless of the opposition. The PPP however will feel even more confident going into the elections against a Mr. Corbin.
The delay in Local Government Polls would also remove any question of controversy.
Any rush to have held these polls were expected to have come up against the bottlenecks of implementing the many reform bills which are still before a Select Committee and which would require time for the various new mechanisms to be agreed upon and implemented.
One of these mechanisms of importance to the hosting of Local Government Elections is the demarcation of boundaries.
Under the new system which will now govern these elections, there is an element of constituency politics which means that new boundaries will have to be agreed upon by all concerned.
This has always been a politically contentious area, and not just in Guyana.
Fortunately for us, we have some guideposts to point the way.
There are, for example, within municipalities, certain administrative boundaries called wards and thus these can be used as constituents.
The NDCs can also be broken up into constituent villages but this is not always a cut and dry situation since important issues such as population sizes often have to be factored in.
In some instances also, it may be necessary for villages to be divided into two or more constituencies and while there are natural geographic and man-made landmarks- such as sideline dams to demarcate these boundaries, the process of demarcation is a highly contentious one as political parties wrestle with each other for political advantage.
The real problem, though, with Local Government democracy in a small country like Guyana, is not so much about demarcation and boundaries and who gains and who loses from this problem. The real problem is the lack of human resources to make Local Government work.
We have a multi-tier Local Government system in Guyana. We have a Regional Administration and we have what is called Neighbourhood Democratic Councils, the latter being a residual of the old socialist system which Burnham had tried to implement in the eighties and which was patterned on the Cuban model.
That system has been chiseled away at during the Constitutional Reform Process which saw the removal of such organs as the Supreme Congress of the People.
It is an aberration which needs to be totally excised from the Local Government System. Instead of having NDCs and Regional Administrations, Guyana would be better advised to go back to the old village system with a strong central Local Government Ministry and with an agreed formula, provided for its laws, about fiscal transfers.
It is too wieldy in a small country like Guyana to have such an elaborate Local Government system comprising of NDCs and Regional Administrations.
It does not work, and one of the main reasons why it does not work is because, apart from the under-resourcing of these bodies, there is difficulty in small countries to find the human resources to adequately administer these bodies.
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