September 27, 2016

Poor voter turnout mars ‘historic’ LGE poll

The much anticipated Local Government Elections (LGE) – the first since 1994 – was undeniably marred by poor voter turnout, with a majority of Guyanese indicating no interest in exercising their franchise while others simply did not grasp the purpose and importance of heading to the polls.
Since the opening of polls at 06:00h to its closing at 18:00h, Guyanese trickled into the various polling stations to cast their vote.
This “historic” event lacked vigour and excitement.  There was absolutely no life in the eyes of the eager voters who headed out to the polls to “reclaim control of their communities”.
LGE 1994 saw a general voting participation of 47.91 per cent; however there are currently no statistics available with regards to the performance of LGE 2016.
But from all indications, there were without doubt only a few Guyanese gracing the polling stations in these supposedly momentous elections.
In fact, polling day staff were often spotted lazing around since there really was not any crowd to deal with.
Some residents believe many citizens failed to turn up because of their commitments at work.
According to one resident on the East Coast Demerara, many persons residing along the coastland work in the Capital City and therefore will not bother to make the time to vote.
Some persons expressed that many Guyanese who are eligible to vote are completely unaware of the importance of these elections and consequently decided not to cast their ballot.
The miniscule turnout was compounded by reports indicating that substantial amounts of voters were denied the opportunity to vote.
Reports suggest that residents from certain areas could not locate their correct polling stations whereas in some cases, there was allegedly no nearby polling place available.
Attempts to contact GECOM officials on the matter proved futile as all calls to their phones went unanswered.
In the lead-up to LGE, the People’s Progressive Party/Civic Parliamentary Opposition raised heaping concerns about the process: the Government’s readiness for the elections and the Election body’s preparedness to host it.
The Party was particularly concerned about a repeat of the General and Regional Elections 2015 where fake statements of polls were infiltrated into GECOM’s machinery and where there were a number of discrepancies plaguing the process which was designed to be transparent.
Moreover GECOM’s voter education campaign is another feature of the LGE which received tons of criticisms from all sections of society.
Critics contended that the campaigns commenced too late, that it failed to spur excitement among Guyanese, especially the first-time voters who had no clue about the process.

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