September 26, 2016

Voters divided on free and fair LGE; electorate racially polarised

Dear Editor,
Voters are divided by political affiliation and or race on whether Friday’s Local Government Elections (LGE) will be free and fair according to the findings of an opinion survey conducted by the North American Caribbean Teachers Association (NACTA). Some half of the electorate lacks confidence in the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) to hold a free and fair election and also express doubt whether the declared results will be a true reflection of the will of the electorate.
The findings of the poll show an electorate polarised along racial lines, with the ruling coalition being supported by Africans; the Opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) being supported by Indians. The Mixed and Amerindians are more divided (or balanced) in their voting trend.
The findings show the PPP is projected to sweep all the rural Neighbourhood Democratic Councils (NDC). The goodwill and support the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) coalition received from among Indians in last May’s General Elections have virtually evaporated, but the coalition will win all of the NDC seats where Africans make up the majority of the voters. The PPP has not been winning over African support with some of it going to other (African) political organisations.
The findings reveal the ruling coalition will win the urban areas (New Amsterdam and Linden) although in Georgetown, Team Benschop is the most talked about organisation and it could very well upset APNU/AFC winning seats; Team Legacy is also pulling some support though trailing APNU/AFC and Benschop. The PPP is projected to win Corriverton, Rose Hall, and Anna Regina and giving the coalition stiff competition in Lethem and Bartica. Traditional supporters of the coalition are disenchanted and a significant number of them are willing to try independent organisations which may do well in the urban areas, including Linden.
The PPP’s biggest challenge is turnout among its supporters as voter enthusiasm among PPP support base is significantly less than that among the APNU/AFC base. The LGE outcome depends on turnout and house to house effort to bring out voters.
The findings of the poll, conducted by Dr Vishnu Bisram, are based on interviews with some 1230 individuals (43 per cent Indians, 30 per cent Africans, 17 per cent Mixed, nine per cent Amerindians and one per cent others) at random. The poll’s margin of error is three per cent.
Asked if they think LGE will be free and fair, 47 per cent said yes, 48 per cent said no with five per cent were unsure.
Asked if they plan to vote, just about a third said yes, an increase from a week ago. Almost two thirds say “no” with about a tenth (among them) saying they could change their mind and vote.
Some half of the voters feel the diplomats of the ABC countries engineered the removal of the PPP Government in last May’s General Election, saying they feel the PPP won the election. Half of the nation also feels Guyana is heading for a return to dictatorial rule as happened right after the US and UK engineered the removal of the PPP from office in December 1964. A quarter of the eligible voters say they feel there is a need for a new political force away from the dominant parties.
With regards to who should lead the PPP, almost every PPP supporter said Bharrat Jagdeo, followed by Irfaan Ali, Frank Anthony, Anil Nandlall and Priya Manickchand. However, there are reservations on whether Jagdeo can win a general election and whether the next general election will be free and fair. A slight majority feel Ralph Ramkarran can win a general election seeing him as a less polarised figure than other PPPites, and a larger number felt he would have won a majority if he were the PPP Presidential Candidate in 2011 and or 2015.
Asked if they think Ramkarran should rejoin the PPP, 52 per cent said yes with 42 per cent saying no and six per cent unsure or offered no response.

Sincerely,
NACTA

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