We are indeed pleased that after all the political manoeuvrings regarding the holding of Local Government Elections (LGE), Guyanese citizens will finally be able to vote for candidates who they believe would be capable of best representing their interests in the various communities come March 18.
We believe that only when people have transparent and accountable institutions at all levels of Government – national, regional and local, will they have confidence in their future. Hence, the upcoming Local Government Elections is a key element of democracy and is could justifiably be considered an historic event in this nation’s history.
The Disciplined Services have already cast their ballot and civilian voters will also get the opportunity to do so in just a matter of days. It is necessary for the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) to take all the concerns raised by the various stakeholders onboard, so as to ensure that all systems are in place to ensure that there is a minimal chance of all any form of disruption.
For example, from the Disciplined Services vote, the Opposition People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) has raised a number of concerns, among them being the need for electors to use their National Identification (ID) cards when voting, so as to avoid claims of multiple voting, etc. The PPP/C had indicated that there was a high incidence of electors presenting themselves without a National (ID) card. As stated by the PPP, while the detailed statistics on this phenomenon are being reviewed, the widespread and unusual occurrences of this nature can only serve to undermine the integrity of the polls.
These are genuine concerns which must be addressed by GECOM before EDay. Like the PPP, we believe that voting without an ID card should be a rare exception, rather than a new normal situation.
On its part, the GECOM has said that the elections machinery is ‘oiled and ready’ to run off these elections and nothing should hold the nation back from engaging in this democratic process. We expect that all political parties will support the Commission in carrying out its work with the highest level of professionalism and transparency. While the criticisms are needed, it is also very crucial for all stakeholders to offer their support to GECOM in conducting these elections in the most credible and professional manner.
The debates and public engagements we are currently witnessing are quite encouraging. It is this kind of approach to governance that citizens want to see replicated in other areas of national development by our leaders. Citizens want to see intelligent and serious discussions on development projects and the benefits that could be derived from it. We have seen the candidates of the various parties and independent groups engaging in public debates where citizens get the opportunity to see and hear the plans and programmes of each individual candidate.
Citizens are crying out for better services. They want to see drains dug and trenches and canals cleaned. They want safer and more prosperous communities. They want to have more facilities for sports in their communities and they want their views to be well represented at the national level so that central government would become aware of the issues which need to be addressed.
Many communities have been left to deteriorate due to a lack of competent elected representatives at the local level to ‘get the job done’. We believe that effective and efficient public administration coupled with healthy local governance can drive development efforts. Local government institutions bring Government closer to the people, fostering greater inclusion, civic responsibility, empowerment and participation. In fact, local government offers one of the most important avenues for women and other groups typically under-represented to participate in the development of their communities and influence decision-making processes.
That being said, with just a few of days left for the elections to be run off, the public awareness and education campaigns should to be stepped up in communities across Guyana. This is a key element for successfully holding these elections. If persons are not fully informed about the process and what it means or how it will impact them and the development of their own communities, they will not participate in the process.