President David Granger yesterday described Friday’s Local Government Election (LGE) as a victory for democracy and a step forward for inclusionary governance. Granger, Minister of State, Joseph Harmon; and Minister of Communities, Ronald Bulkan, also pronounced themselves satisfied with the voter turnout.
Granger, who protested for LGE to be held while still opposition leader, made this pronouncement during a press conference at the Ministry of the Presidency. He affirmed that the entitlement of citizens to participate in decision-making in their Municipal and Neighborhood Councils has now been restored.
“The Local Government Elections of Friday, March 18, 2016 were not only the duty of the government but were a victory for democracy and an opportunity for inclusionary governance,” Granger stated.
“The elections were a return to constitutionality after a lapse of nearly two decades under the previous administration.”
Granger stated that the elections achieved several points, one of which was to empower citizens, in accordance with the Constitution of Guyana, to freely exercise their right to elect councillors of their choice. He also noted that through the elections, Central, Regional and Municipal levels of Government can effectively work.
He also noted that with the establishment of new towns – at Mabaruma, Bartica and Lethem – the elections of Mayors and Town Councils will ensure that each region is administered by a capital and public services and economic development will be improved.
Granger also agreed with the suggestions that candidates won because of big party endorsements. He noted that those who won in this way share the party’s vision for “clean, green communities and integration of the work of Central, Regional and Municipal Councils for high quality governance.”
However, Granger made it clear that the party never obstructed anyone from contesting as independents. This will come in the wake of preliminary results showing that independents such as ‘Team Benschop for Mayor’ making heavy losses in the elections.
Low voter turnout
Questions were also raised about the fact that there seemed to be a generally low voter turnout. Harmon noted that the low turnout was actually not unusual in such elections. “Democratic renewal is (occurring) at all levels,” Harmon said.
“We have some hesitation, skepticism about what it is all about but eventually education solves that and the people’s experience in their communities. So while we don’t have specific figures from GECOM, I do believe that the turnout was satisfactory.”
“If you check the elections in Canada, where the Prime Minister was elected, you will see that it was 30 percent,” Harmon continued. “So in our communities, we will have to intensify the voter education and the level of participation in administration of the communities.”
Harmon also noted that the Government’s decision not to make March 18 a holiday was largely vindicated. He noted that some people went to work and left early, in order to vote.
After a two decade absence, the much anticipated Local Government Elections returned on Friday, only to be welcomed by a low voter turnout. Pictures proliferate of empty polling stations, at times when they have traditionally had lines for the General and Regional elections.
Polling Stations countrywide opened at 6:00hrs and closed at 18:00hrs.
Throughout that day, text messages were being sent to citizens providing the relevant information to assist voters in locating their respective polling stations and why they should vote.
A whopping 507,663 voters were captured on the Official Voters’ List and 1,562 Polling Stations were open to facilitate voting. The Local Authorities (Elections) Act was amended in 2009 to include as many people as possible, apart from political parties to present themselves as candidates.
There were 83 groups, three political parties, 63 individual candidates, three political parties and 17 voluntary groups.
Kaieteur News met with electors after they had cast their ballot yesterday and they expressed some concerns. The most common issue was that persons did not know where they were supposed to vote.
Some electors stated that the LGEs Polling Stations were different from the Polling Stations they would have visited to vote for the General Elections.
Many also said that they did not know who they were voting for; they just showed up because they were required to vote.
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