…high levels of confidence abound among independent candidates
By Shemuel Fanfair
For the first time in 22 years, Guyanese across municipalities and Neighbourhood Democratic Councils (NDCs) are casting their ballots in Local Government Elections (LGE). Many of the major groupings have expressed confidence that enough has been done to secure their victories.
South Ruimveldt candidate and Team Benschop for Mayor leader, Mark Benschop told Guyana Times that he wanted fast counting of votes as his party has put in enough work for a landslide victory.
“Our party’s plans [came along] quite fine: we are optimistic; we believe that we’re gonna pull this off. When compared to the other candidates, I think we have the best and the people of Georgetown know that. We will pull it off with either a landslide or a majority,” Benschop declared.
The candidate maintained that the major groups should not have been part of local elections.
“Based on what the people of Georgetown want – the people do not want Central Government to control the local government affairs; they are adamant about that.”
“Once everything goes well, the people can see Team Benschop being elected the next Mayor of Georgetown.”
Benschop also expressed hope that the election process would go smoothly.
“We don’t want no ballot boxes to be stopped or anything; a transparent process, a free, a fair elections,” opined that candidate.
Smooth process, order
Meanwhile, Alliance For Change General Secretary David Patterson told this publication that he expected a “smooth voting process”, while APNU/AFC’s Sherrod Duncan rejected the sentiments expressed by small political groups that bigger parties should stay out of the local elections. He pointed to Article 7 which speaks to inclusiveness.
“The Constitution speaks at the local Government level through Article 7, that there should be inclusion of individuals and independent candidates, groups and political parties so we believe that anything less would be unconstitutional.”
Duncan said that he anticipated that the Disciplined Services would do all that was necessary to ensure that there was peace during today’s polls. The Georgetown municipality candidate also stated that the party has done “sufficient sensitisation” and was expecting “very favourable results” in the city.
Similarly, People’s Progressive Party General Secretary Clement Rohee noted that the main Opposition Party was expecting “significant results” in its favour. He also gave high ratings to his Party’s preparations in the run-up to the polls.
“I would rate it as high,” the General Secretary noted. The former Home Affairs Minister also said that he stood by his previous claims that the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) did a “poor job” of voter education.
“I still stand by that…it too little, too late,” Rohee posited. He further noted that should the PPP/Civic be successful in the capital city, “significant changes” would be brought to the management of City Hall.
“All of them should be cleaned out…clean the stables…[we will] bring significant changes, but it depends on if we win councillors in the City Hall which I’m sure we will,” emphasised the General Secretary.
Fellow PPP member Irfaan Ali told Guyana Times that the Party was “very multi-faceted” and, as such, was representing “every stature of society”.
He too is hoping for GECOM to conduct a transparent process.
“I expect a fair process where persons voting are not intimidated and denied their rights, because in the national elections, we had a lot of concerns about the process and we hope that enough measures are put in place to avoid what occurred,” Ali noted.
Needed more time
Team Legacy candidate Michael Leonard said that while he was optimistic, the smaller groups “needed a little more time for the campaigns”. Leonard also said that many of his supporters share the view that the larger parties should have stayed out of the elections.
“We don’t have the budgets of the larger parties, so a lot of our efforts have been on the ground, but we are about 9 out of 10 prepared.”
The candidate also opined that GECOM should have capitalised more on the use of social media in the voter education programmes, as “many people” were no longer watching television.
“It’s been very poor, GECOM has made use of radio and television, but I don’t believe they’ve made use of social media, which is a critical component in communication, so that’s very disappointing,” expressed the Team Legacy leader.
Leonard also noted that these elections could bring an end to the “fighting and bickering” at City Hall so that there could be transformation of communities.
The Elections Commission has given all assurances that the process will be transparent.