Prior to the General and Regional Elections, Kumar Ramnauth, President of the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce had stated that the business sector was concerned about the timing of elections being so close to the Christmas season.
And these concerns were certainly not unfounded as just over 24 hours after Guyanese took to the polls, some of the main commercial areas around the Capital City including Regent Street, Stabroek and Bourda Markets remained closed. Some businesses shut their doors but operated through grills and windows, while others closed earlier than usual.
A visit to Stabroek Market at around noon yesterday showed that more than 50 percent of stalls within the facility were closed. It was revealed that some stall holders who decided to conduct business were deterred by several persons who advised them to leave.
This was heeded by a majority, while others decided to stay and brave the day even though the silence around the market square was according to some “deafening”. Business was also slow with few shoppers hustling about the place.
Stall holders who opened said they have commitments, so closing business was not an option for them.
“We have rent to pay and particularly this month we have to pay both November and December at the same time.” They are worried that their Christmas sales may be seriously affected by the tensions related to the elections.
Some also shared their concerns of not having enough police and City Constables present in the market. “We would feel more comfortable if there were more police around, shoppers are scared to come out, and they need to be assured that things are okay.”
The scene at Bourda Market was no different. The market was not busy with the closure of several stalls and few shoppers. The southern side of the market was closed early while business was slow on the northern side.
Vendors who remained expressed concerns that police ranks were hardly visible. They related that during the 1992 and 1997 elections many stall holders were financially affected by looters. To avoid losses, the vendors removed items from their stalls before leaving.
Meanwhile, many businesses on Regent Street were closed. Those that were opened had shutters guarding windows. Though some businesses were opened for business, their employees did not turn out.
Some business operators are hoping that Guyana will have a peaceful post-election period. They emphasised that the Christmas season usually rakes in a lot of sales and businesses look forward for this time of the year. At around 15:00 hrs, yesterday, individuals were seen closing their businesses.
For some taxi drivers, the day seemed normal. They said no one was showing any animosity and persons were traveling as per normal but not many persons were on the road.
Police ranks paired in twos were seen at different locations along the corridor.
Elections 2011 has thrown up more twists than the plot of a political thriller.
For one, almost 24 hours after the close of polls across the country at 18:00hrs on Monday, managers of the voting process, the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), are yet to definitively say which party is in the lead.
Aircraft carrying counted ballots and completed Statement of Polls were delayed probably due to logistical arrangements.
Already, international observers have intimated that the voters’ turnout would be unusually high, if not record breaking.
There were loads of rumours of stolen ballot boxes, complaints of the delays in the GECOM announcement and finger-pointing between the incumbent, People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) and opposition parties, A Partnership for National Unity and Alliance For Change.
At GECOM’s headquarters in High Street, Kingston, heavily armed police ringed the area, warning reporters to not even take photos of the building…“it is not advisable at this time”, one senior officer said.
GECOM was busy counting and the verifying documents from polling sites.
At Freedom House, on Robb Street, the PPP’s headquarters, the tension was high, with quite a few of the bodyguards and supporters chewing nails and shifting from leg to leg impatiently.
Some were sipping from energy drinks after clocking some extended hours.
Senior party officials were up to late yesterday locked in meetings since early Monday, spending the night there, it was reported.
Down at the Alliance For Change (AFC) headquarters in Campbellville, a few persons were gathered in front, also impatiently.
There were no signs of the either the party’s leaders Raphael Trotman or Presidential Candidate, Khemraj Ramjattan. They were said to be locked in meetings.
Down at Congress Place, Sophia, headquarters of the People’s National Congress, which makes up a large part of the coalition opposition, APNU, several cars lined the entrance. Senior officials were also gathered there locked in meetings.
The word on the street yesterday was that it was an all-out race between the PPP/C and APNU with the members of the former prematurely declaring early on Facebook, the popular social networking site, that it won the Presidency. That notice was later pulled after GECOM warned that it is the only body tasked with announcing the winner or the official results.
The PPP/C, in an unusual move, also reportedly asked for recounts in key areas of Region Three, Four and 10.
At Congress Place, reporters were not immediately allowed in.
The 2011 elections may now become an historic one in many ways. There are already talks that it was one of the most expensive.
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