It is fitting that this year’s elections will be decided by the youth of Guyana, a generation that for too long have been bereft of power, neglected and stereotyped. According to the Guyana Elections Commission (“GECOM”) of the 475,496 eligible voters 46% are between 18 and 35 years old.
What this means is that the political parties that have been crafting their messages and stump speeches for the older generation have been wasting their time. The PPP’s ranting and raving about 28 years of PNC rule, and the AFC’s blaming the PNC and the PPP for it all, loses traction among this group. None of these strategies are likely to have a significant impact on this crucial demographic come November 28th.
Born between 1976 and 1993, this generation came of age and was influenced by the current ruling party, the PPP. The eldest among them would have been in their mid-teens when President Cheddi Jagan assumed office, and the youngest were mere babes in arms. They would have been among the first of their generation to pay to attend the University of Guyana, and experience a 16% value added tax.
They would have lived through the bloody troubles, and some may have even had friends or family members who were killed during that dark period of our nation’s history. No politician can tell them about the police, corruption and the rule of law, because these young people have long since formed their opinions, and have learned how to survive and navigate what now passes for law enforcement and governance in Guyana.
Telling today’s young voters about an incident that occurred 38 or 40 years ago probably will not hold their interest or influence their vote. This generation has their own stories and recent memories from which to judge and make up their own minds. They have watched their schoolmates, family members and friends leave for “greener pastures.” Some will already have made the trek to Duke Street and stood for hours in line, only to be turned away. Many young single women have been denied the opportunity to get a house lot – preference being given to married couples. This is the generation that has been targeted by today’s PPP for “Hits and Jams” rather than opportunities and jobs.
When this demographic goes to the polls on November 28th they will be armed with the knowledge that the current cost of living is far too high: they know it because they live it and feel it. Youth unemployment is at an all-time high, and wages are desperately low. Most of the 46% Super voters fall into the category of the under-employed, and no amount of political bribery will blunt the impact of their daily survival routine.
Most of them will not read this, because they do not buy newspapers: they get their messages via the Internet, social media like Twitter and Facebook, and text messages. But they are smart, and many very well informed, and know when they are being bamboozled.
They know that in 2006, on page 13 of the PPP Manifesto, that party stated that it was investing US$300 million of tax revenue to build a hydroelectric facility. Five years later this now sought after 46% are receiving Tweets on their Blackberries that the PPP’s 2011 Manifesto has the same hydroelectric project, but this time with a US$835 million price tag.
These young people know very well that they will have to pay for this and the many other over-inflated public works projects commissioned in their names. They have watched as the gap between rich and poor grows wider everyday, and drug dealers and gun runners flaunt their wealth and purchase respectability, while honest Guyanese go to Duke Street or ask relatives overseas for remittances.
So, as the older generation waxes nostalgic and applauds the political musical chairs checking to see who crosses the floor or who said what, the silent majority watches and waits. They may not know it, but their future is in their own hands, and come November 28th, 2011, they will decide what type of future all Guyanese will either enjoy or suffer.
It is ironic: “The stone the builder rejected has become the cornerstone”.
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