Some seventy hours after polls closed on November 28, GECOM finally managed to produce the final results of how 342,236 Guyanese voted (346,717 minus 4,481 rejected).
There may or may not have been any skullduggery involved in either casting or counting ballots, but GECOM’s lethargic behaviour in producing results in a timely manner opened it and the process to suspicion that many won’t readily live down.
The next government and Parliament must work together to overhaul GECOM before the next elections so it can function as an independent body and not be allowed to continue appearing as an inept appendage of the executive branch.
Give it an annual budget to do its duties, including hiring and training personnel, educating and informing voters and acquiring computer technology to aid in voting and tabulating votes cast, so it will be fully ready for the 2016 elections, and deliver the voting results on Elections Night.
Anyway, we can’t go on dwelling on elections, even if we don’t agree on the process that produced the final results, because we have a nation to build. So, even though my party of choice did not win, I still say congratulations to Mr. Donald Ramotar on his ascendancy to the presidency of the Republic of Guyana.
He truly needs to redeem himself after 1) his failure to rein in the party’s 1999 choice for President who went on to display an aversion to government transparency and accountability, and 2) his failure as a board member to help prevent GuySuCo from costing taxpayers’ billions of dollars in avoidable losses.
The new President has his work cut out, and while we don’t know what exactly his priorities are, we can only hope he governs in a diametrically opposite fashion to his predecessor; ensuring the checks and balances system works for the people of Guyana, and that transparency and accountability are restored.
Hopefully, he taps into the vast reservoir of talented Guyanese at home and abroad, politics and ideologies aside, in undertaking the Herculean task of nation building.
I don’t know if he will revisit state deals struck by his predecessor or even investigate myriad cases of corruption, but he will redeem himself in the eyes of many if he does, and produces satisfactory results. This may mean putting a lot of daylight between himself and his predecessor.
The elections exercise, in retrospect, was not without its high and low points, with the high points being all three of the candidates conducting themselves with laudable decorum, and the low points being former President Bharrat Jagdeo’s acidic rhetoric.
The PPP candidate had the clear advantage over his rivals because of his party’s access to the state’s resources. As a result, the PPP recorded 166,340 General Elections (GE) votes (32 seats) – compared to 183,867 in 2006.
The APNU candidate, a virtual newcomer to active politics, seemed to have revived the PNC base with the hugely impressive number of votes cast – 139,678 (26 seats) compared to the PNC’s 114,608 GE votes in 2006 – for his grouping, and it is now left for us to see whether he will become the new Opposition Leader and also whether there will still be an APNU or PNC.
The AFC candidate, a brave leader who refused to be compromised by corruption of his former party, knew his party was short on resources to wage an effective fight, but still represented with confidence and courage those Guyanese whose eyes have been opened to the reality that race-based politics has stymied Guyana’s ability to come into her full potential, since the PPP and PNC started pandering to race-based constituencies for support and votes. The AFC did much better this time around with 35,333 votes (7 seats) compared to 28,366 GE votes in 2006.
The net effects of the defection of Mr. Moses Nagamootoo from the PPP to the AFC will become clearer as we assimilate the number of votes cast for the AFC in traditional PPP strongholds, because Mr. Nagamootoo jumped ship mere weeks before Election Day.
Still, it is obvious from massive turnouts on the campaign trail followed by voting patterns in traditional strongholds, that Guyanese have once again voted largely along racial lines, perhaps indelibly establishing the role of race in Guyana’s political culture.
That Mr. Nagamootoo’s defection to the AFC barely dented the PPP’s support base could be interpreted to mean that although many PPP supporters are disappointed with President Jagdeo and respected Mr. Nagamootoo, they probably held out hope that Mr. Ramotar will be the exact opposite if elected President. And I am confident that if he does the right thing as President, the nation will support him, regardless of what we might have thought of him before his ascendancy to the presidency.
Apart from race-based voting, Guyanese generally ought to be congratulated for their post-election patience and calm (up to the time of this writing) in the face of GECOM’s apathetic counting of votes.
As a people, we are growing, albeit painstakingly slower than expected.
Hopefully, by 2016 we will show greater maturity as we vote issues and not mere race.
With the election campaign now over and the new government set to get on with the nation’s business, we, the people – at home and abroad – have to remember we are first and foremost Guyanese, regardless of our political inclinations, and it devolves on all of us, therefore, to continue doing everything we can to fight and help make Guyana a better and safer place for all, whether those at home or those visiting from overseas.
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