The electoral system utilized by Guyana after the tumultuous 1997 General Elections is a hybrid of Proportional and Geographical (Regional) Representation which allocates 40, and 25, seats respectively to a 65-member National Assembly and after four (4) election cycles the following observations can be made:
1) It would appear, from the available data, that GECOM has, on occasion, been able to sanitize the Official List of Electors (OLE), the size of which was 461,481 (1997), 440,185 (2001), 492,369 (2006), 475,496 (2011) and 585,727 (2015) through house-to-house registration and other means and the OLE may surpass 600,000 potential electors for the 2020 elections;
2) In the first election (2001) under the current system voter turnout represented an astounding 91.7% of all registered voters and delivered the Presidency to Bharrat Jagdeo and a majority of 34 seats to the PPP/C with 55.3% of the vote. Voter turnout in the following (2006) election declined precipitously to 69.3% but nevertheless returned Mr. Jagdeo to the Presidency and increased the PPP/C’s majority to 36 seats in the National Assembly with 54.6% support. In 2011 and 2015 voter turnout averaged 72% and delivered minorities in voter support (48.6% and 49.2% respectively) and seats (32/65) to the PPP/C; and
3) Using data from the 2015 elections it would appear that the more than 207,000 votes cast in Regions No. 4, 8 and 10 elected fewer (10) geographical representatives to the National Assembly while the slightly fewer votes registered in the remaining seven (7) regions (Nos. 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7 & 9) elected 15 M.Ps. This lack of proportionality is best illustrated by the example of Regions # 4 where the PPP/C recorded less than 70,000 votes but received 1 seat less (3/4) than APNU+AFC which recorded more than 112,000 votes, which is 42,000 votes more than the PPP/C. Region No. 8’s less than 4,000 votes elected 1 M.P. and Region No. 1’s less than 12,000 votes elected 2 MPs.
The upcoming March 2, 2020 General and Regional Elections will be the first elections administered under this system in which the PPP/C is not the incumbent party and I have no recollection of any criticisms or denouncements of the system which delivered the outcomes outlined above.
It is my own unqualified and unsolicited opinion that the APNU+AFC coalition will win the upcoming General and Regional Elections by a landslide and that David Granger will be returned as President of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana with a hugely comfortable and unassailable margin in the National Assembly precluding a repeat of the Charandass affair. I believe this view to be widely shared and is the basis for the many expressions, frequently and hysterically ventilated in the press and in press conferences, that the APNU+AFC coalition, and the PNC/R its dominant force, will “rig” the upcoming elections with, or without, the assistance and connivance of certain members of the international community, and that the international community and ExxonMobil (and other oil companies) will “heavily influence the election results”. The involvement and influence of international actors (nation states and transnational corporations) in Guyana and around the world has been a historical fact for centuries and political parties and others have invited, encouraged and welcomed it when it advanced their interests and disparaged the same under different circumstances.
The real reason, I submit, for the discomfiture and fear is the recognition by the PPP/C that it is overmatched in the electoral arena and that its decline which has been evident for several years now is irreversible and tending to accelerate. The failure of the PPP/C to secure simple majorities in the popular vote and the National Assembly at the 2011 and 2015 General and Regional elections, while in command of the state, is indicative of very severe governmental and governance failures which apparently have not been attended to by any noticeable reform or adjustment since their loss of power in 2015 and its support base may have declined as a result of some resignations or retirements to form their own (rival) political party, to seek opportunities elsewhere or caused by the downsizing of its industrial base which have not been offset by new recruitments or endorsements.
All political parties, which must contest at least 6 of the 10 regions, are aware that electoral success is determined by precise geographical targeting through specific and relevant policies, candidates and alliances, much like the targeting of Electoral College votes in the US Presidential Elections. This is basic election campaign strategy and not RIGGING and the baseless and despicable attacks on GECOM, its Chairperson and CEO, can only mask (and not address) the fundamental weaknesses of the PPP/C. The unmistakable fact is that the APNU+AFC has a superior platform of policies, programmes, candidates and alliances and the significant advantage of incumbency which the No Confidence Vote, and its attendant legal and political challenges, have failed to negate. The PPP/C’s efforts to force the resignation of the government and to hinder developmental activities by seeking the assistance of international actors to restrict funding, impose sanctions and to withhold investments are acts of desperation and not a concern for constitutionality or democracy and which cannot excuse the vituperative attacks on the sitting President. Also, this weakness is probably best exemplified by the fact that the leader of the PPP/C’s political campaign is not its Presidential Candidate and that some persons, very likely PPP/C supporters, view an alternative party’s candidate as more deserving of the Presidency.
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