Mar 20, 2016 News
Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commissions (GECOM), Dr. Steve Surujbally, has said that the low turn out to the Local Government Elections (LGE) held on Friday should not be laid squarely at the feet of GECOM.
Dr. Surujbally was at the time responding to questions at GECOM‘s post election press briefing held at the Commission’s Waterloo Street, Georgetown office yesterday.
The LGE held on March 18, last, was greeted by a low voter turnout in several sections of the country. The elections which are scheduled to be held every three years took place after some 22 years.
Based on preliminary calculations GECOM officials have disclosed that the voter turnout for the Disciplined Services was about 55.5 per cent while response by the rest of the elections ranged between 38 %-39 %.
Dr. Surujbally has noted however, that GECOM is not shouldering the responsibility of failure to adequately educate the populace on the matters of the LGE.
“It is not our job,” Surujbally noted adding that if you look at the prescription in the law for GECOM’s functions you might be hard pressed to find civic and voter education.”
The Chairman noted that in times past political groups and election observers took responsibility for the voter education.
He explained that GECOM later took responsible for providing the information to the public.
According to the Chairman, GECOM used every opportunity within the last few months to ensure information about the elections is available to the public, even until the day before the elections were held.
Dr. Surujbally noted, “Too many people did not even know the candidates in their areas so it‘s not GECOM’s fault. We felt that perhaps more work should have been done by the people (candidate) who wanted to be in position of leadership.”
But PPP/C Commissioner Bibi Shadick disagreed with Dr. Surujbally. She believed that GECOM civic and voter education should have begun much earlier.
Shadick said that the verbose advertisements, last minute appointment of a Public Relations Officer by GECOM and the fact the many voters might have had to work on Elections Day could possibly be among the reasons for the low turnout.
Meanwhile GECOM’s Chief Elections Officer, (CEO) Keith Lowenfield pointed out that the Commission had planned for the Local Government Elections following the hosting of the Regional and General Elections held last May.
He said that in his opinion the March 18 elections were successfully conducted notwithstanding some minor glitches.
Lowenfeild said that none-the-less recommendations will be made towards improvements of participation by the public and contestants in time for the next LGE.
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