The deck is stacked in favour of the PNCR when it comes to local government elections (LGE). The electoral system apportions half of the seats by virtue of proportional representation (PR) and the other half by virtue of a straight race between the parties, groups and individuals within the city’s 15 constituencies. This mixed system virtually assures the PNCR of an overwhelming majority at City Hall.
Under the new system, the PPPC is at a greater disadvantage. The main opposition party presents no threat to the PNCR’s stranglehold within the Georgetown City Council, at next week’s LGE.
The PPPC is weakened in Georgetown. The PPPC did worse in the 2016 LGE than it did in the 1994 polls.The PPPC won a mere 2 of the 15 PR seats up for grabs in the 2016 LGE. They won 0 of the 15 constituencies.
The APNU+AFC coalition thumped the PPPC, and all the independent groups and candidates, in every constituency in Georgetown in the 2016 LGE. APNU+AFC secured five times as many votes as the PPPC, handing them a heavy thrashing in Georgetown. It was only in the ‘middle class’ constituencies of Bel Air Gardens, Bel Air Springs, Prashad Nagar and North East and North West Campbellville, that the PPPC barely lost. All the other constituencies were comfortably won by APNU+AFC.
The PPPC is not going to be doing much better this time around. Even with the AFC contesting, the PPPC is not likely to gain more than three out of the thirty seats up for grabs in Georgetown.
And so the fear is that once again the PNCR, which with the AFC won 14 of the constituencies the last time around, is likely to have a clean sweep of the 15 constituency seats which, with their PR votes, is going to give them another commanding control of the Council.
And we know the dangers of that. With the AFC as its sidekick in 2016, the PNCR ran roughshod over the City Council. There were simply no political checks on its authority.
If as is expected, the PNCR wins, most of the Georgetown constituencies, it will give the party a free licence to do exactly as it pleases – which is exactly as it did from 2016 onwards.
The most odious act was the parking meter contract. This was signed behind the backs of the very councilors who turned around and approved it by a majority vote of the PNCR-dominated Council.
A public parking facility on East Street, built by the PPPC principally to accommodate staff and visitors, was converted into a paid parking lot contracted to a private firm. The public rebelled against this by refusing to pay. Barricades, however, still prevent them from using the said lot.
Residents of the city foiled a plan which the Council had to use certain reserves and playgrounds to establish homes for municipal markets.
The PNCR then turned against the vendors at Stabroek Square, using the excuse of a clean-up exercise. A similar attempt to stop vendors selling on Robb Street, between Alexander and Bourda Streets failed after protests to the government.
Stable-like stalls were built in a section of Bourda Mall and vendors were told that this was an attempt to regularize and enhance the place. While regular vendors are now cramped into small stalls, one large vendor is allowed to operate as usual on the other end of that section of the mall.
With the support of government, the Council launched a massive clean-up campaign, the likes of which was only seen after the 2005 floods. The city’s gloss was restored, but only for a short time, since there was no maintenance of the work done. The city has begun to return to its past ignominy. It is once again becoming stink and dirty. At one stage, private garbage collectors withdrew their services because of non-payment.
After spending more than one hundred million dollars, the cemetery has once again become a rainforest. Drains have once again become clogged, with flooding occurring at the slightest of heavy downpours.
Without adequate political checks of its power, the Council has been doing as it pleases. A container tax was imposed without adequate consultation. Rates and taxes for businesses have always been disproportionately high. To add to the burden of the business community, the Council charges storeowners $5000 per week to showcase their wares on the pavement, but vendors, who are squatting on the pavement and providing unfair competition, pay only $1,000 per week.
And this is what accounts, despite the hiccups with persons being left off the Voters’ List, for the poor turnout at the polls of members of the Disciplined Services, last Monday. Soldiers and police voted with their feet — they stayed away.
Monday November 12th will see a similar occurrence when the rest of the country votes. Some people are already saying that it is not worth the trouble of staining your finger just to vote.
But even a low turnout will not prevent the inevitable. The PNCR will sweep Georgetown, winning perhaps 25 of the 30 seats. And with that majority, there will be no checks to its unbridled power. It will do as it pleases in Georgetown – as it has always done.
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