People get the government they deserve. The complaints about the quality of local government should therefore not be placed at the feet of the political parties, the APNU +AFC and the PPPC, which dominated the 2016 local government polls.
Voters should blame themselves for the poor showing of those whom they elected because it is the voters who elected those representatives. It is not as if the voters had no choice.
They did. They were not always required to choose between the PPPC and the APNU+AFC. A number of independent groups and individuals groups contested constituencies in both the municipalities and the Neighbourhood Democratic Councils.
Yet, the electorate chose to ignore most of these candidates and turned the local government elections once more into a two-horse race. Here was an opportunity for the people to try to move away from Guyana’s blighted two-party domination of elections to create political space for independent groups and individuals.
The electorate chose otherwise. The APNU+AFC won all but three of the municipalities up for grabs but only 14 of the NDCs. On the other hand, the PPPC swept 45 of the 65 Neighbourhood Democratic Councils. The PPPC won the popular vote by an unassailable 25,000 votes.
The government is denying allegations that it was trying to gerrymander constituency boundaries and creating new NDCs as a means of reversing its heavy loss at the local government elections. Those elections were held one year after the APNU+AFC scraped home by the skin of its teeth in national and regional elections.
The electorate got caught up in frenzy of the traditional two horse race and dealt a serious blow to local democracy when it dissed the independents individuals and groups. It is instructive that it was only in two Neighbourhood Democratic Councils, one in BV/Triumph and the other is Kwakwani that independent groups secured more votes than either of the contesting political parties. In West Berbice two individuals, contesting two constituencies won against the political party candidates.
In the Georgetown municipality, there was only one constituency, the Albouystown/Charlestown constituency in which an independent won the seat. In Georgetown, team Benschop was swept aside managing just one PR seat. In Bartica, a very promising independent group was humiliated after an AFC leader cautioned the town about the dangers of vote- splitting.
In Linden, where the PPP posed no threat to the APNU+AFC, the latter swept every single seat. The voters there were not keen on giving the independents a voice in the council.
Therefore, the independent individuals and groups were swept aside. This represented a major disappointment of the elections because it meant that even at the lowest level where there is no threat to the domination at the centre, ethnic politics dominated.
There is nothing to suggest that things are going to be different this year. There is nothing to indicate that the independent groups and individuals are going to do any better than in 2016. In fact, from all indications, the results in 2015 seemed to have demoralized independents groups and individuals.
In fact, so far it is known that two persons who were on the Team Benschop slate are now candidates for the APNU. So even some independents are casting off their independence. This is what happens when ethnic voting dominates.
The Guyanese people love to pretend that they are weary of ethnic politics. The 2016 local government polls presented them with a chance to show their revulsion of ethnic politics and to try to promote third forces and candidates. It backfired, because the supporters of the two political titans felt threatened enough to go back to their usual ways of voting.
Guyana needs some fresh faces in local politics. The local government election provides that opportunity for allowing civic-minded citizens, with no political party affiliations to be involved in managing communities. The people did not give them that chance in 2016.
Political party domination of local government elections has not done anything for local communities. It has perverted local democracy.
Will the electorate give the independents groups and individuals a chance in 2018? Not a chance!
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