Amidst the celebration by respective parties after the local government elections, it is important to note that every party or group can smile but still find themselves between a rock and a hard place.
The single most positive coming out of LGE 2018 was “Local Democracy” which is now back as a staple fixture in Guyana. On the other hand, voter apathy served as a stark reminder that the electorate overall disapproved of services at the local levels.
Upon examination of each contender, one would see that they all had their positives and negatives which will serve as a wake-up call to those who feel they have things covered.
The APNU and AFC both suffered for abandoning their LGE coalition- with AFC hitting the rock while APNU finds itself in a seemingly hard place. The PPP is celebrating this break-up because it gives them a chance to claim votes in certain areas that the AFC captured supporters from the APNU or in areas where dirty campaigning discouraged their supporters from heading to the polls. The PPPC and APNU both claim bragging rights, but truth be told, all parties can celebrate beyond the return of local democracy including the AFC, URP and the Independents.
APNU was expected to be obliterated at the polls as they faced the brunt of the election blows which came from the AFC, PPPC, URP, Independents and their own supporters who unwittingly joined the efforts of their opposition to spread negativities. Infighting among comrades also had a negative effect on their campaign. APNU also appeared to have struggled with a low budget for their campaign while the PPP and AFC seemed to be loaded with the “Grangers”. However the APNU utilized their ‘foot soldiers’ and touted their accomplishments; which were comparatively substantial when compared to the previous administration, to keep their loyalists on board. APNU’s formidable showing in their strongholds, and in places dominated by the PPP, despite many supporters absenting themselves, is a plus for the party- along with the return of LGEs. It proves that if their supporters were energized to take to the polls, better results would be had. However their LGE 2018 results will spur the party and its supporters to not take things for granted heading into 2020.
PPPC on the other hand capitalized on the LGE split of the coalition and voter apathy to ensure their supporters turned out to vote as their opponents’ supporters stayed away in Georgetown, Linden, Lethem, and in Mabaruma to a lesser extent leaving APNU and AFC with the need to kiss and make up after the LGE storm. PPPC also campaigned cunningly in several areas with allegations of vote buying, trickery, intimidation, voter suppression and ‘insider underhandedness” surfacing. Their unsavory attacks on the Prime Minister and Minister of Public Security because they left the PPPC also played a role in denting the AFC’s hopes but continues to stain Guyana with polarizing politics. To hold on to the majority in their strongholds and their results in other areas however gave the PPP some talking points as their LGE showing remains constant, but there is nothing much new to talk about. The PPPC is also between a rock and a hard place because they have reached their limit in current support in the communities which were diminished after the last general elections. The PPPC does not have the same excuse as the APNU with their base not showing up to the polls. I forecast therefore that the PPP will remain in the opposition come 2020 because of the unforgettable actions of their leaders during their 23 years. Several of their supporters are seeing a better opportunity for growth outside of the Jagdeo circle. Also what is not being mentioned is the fact that several PPPC controlled NDCs and municipalities are facing the same disgruntlement from their representatives as the lack of cooperation with regional and central government for local development has backfired. Moreover, the newly elected leaders are now signaling their interest in cooperation in order to have something to show come 2020.
The AFC ran the most aggressive and visible LGE campaign and should give itself a pat on the back for standing alone and notching a few seats. However, the inroads they made seem like a “roundabout,” since it bit a chunk out of the APNU’s base. Their overt and covert aggressions also had a negative effect on the coalition base and gave grounds to the PPP. Their non-impact in PPP strongholds was also a greater setback than their failed attempt to wrest control in coalition strongholds. A positive take-away from the AFC’s LGE campaign is their level of organization and their confident approach to their mission. Looking forward to 2020 however the AFC has to assert itself as a voice of reason, not as an independent voice, but one the people can have confidence in as their balancing partner.
The URP can celebrate getting some votes, but the independent candidates have more to celebrate as democratic renewal gave them an opportunity to be the people’s choice. This is something even the President encouraged as he believes the people must have their best representation. The question will now be asked how their election promises will be delivered.
Come 2020 all local organs will be in the spotlight with their leaders and the electorate holding them accountable while large parties will expect their constituencies to deliver for them. It will also be interesting to see if the PPP will urge its local leaders to be non-cooperative with regional and central governments over the next two years and spin it in their favour. The URP and independent representatives will also have to determine what their next move will be since their contributions to community development will also face scrutiny.
Finally, the coalition will have to hit the reset button and have one fixed agenda and message in the lead-up to 2020. When an APNU or AFC Minister makes a statement, it should be a coalition statement and not of their individual party. They also cannot allow politics of fear, racial incitement and untruths to be the order of the PPPC without a strong objection or counter. Momentum is important, but mood remains a game changer in any election. “When truth is blurred by lies and misinformation, perception becomes reality and all is lost.”
The people spoke in LGE 2018 and it’s up to all parties to deliver. Guyanese are more aware of their rights as citizens and along with the diaspora know what is at stake; having democracy and a trajectory of a good life for all against a dictatorship and a good life for a few.
Former Mayor of Linden
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