Despite reports of a 38 per cent voter turnout at Friday’s Local Government Elections (LGE), Government said it is pleased with the figure while adding that it is better than what was anticipated.
This was said at a press conference on Saturday morning headed by President David Granger, Minister of State Joseph Harmon and Communities Minister Ronald Bulkan; all of whom hailed the process as a success, saying that local democracy has been restored after two decades.
President David Granger along with Ministers Joseph Harmon and Ronald Bulkan at the press conference on Saturday
According to Minister Harmon, while the numbers were in fact low, they were not less than the amount of turnout at any other election.
“Historically at Local Government Elections, the voter turnout has been lower than they are for national and regional elections, so the turnout this time around in our view was even better than had been anticipated,” he noted.
Harmon pointed out that the intensity of the campaigns, particularly in the townships resulted in higher turnouts in these constituencies, as opposed to those in the Neighbourhood Democratic Council (NDCs) areas.
“This is so because of the vibrancy of the debates which took place. The fact that there were challenges from independent groups, political parties and other individuals, I believe that in fact energised the population but this might have come a little bit late,” he stated.
Minister Harmon added that with LGEs now being held again, persons would realise the importance it plays in their communities and would opt to participate the next time around.
On the other hand, Minister Bulkan stated that it is premature to conclude that the voter turnout was low without an official declaration from the Guyana Elections Commission. However, the elections body a few hours later on Saturday said that the turnout at the local government polls was somewhere between 38 and 39 per cent, taking into consideration that the votes in Region Six (East Berbice-Corentyne) were being recounted at the time.
“If indeed the overall turnout in these elections, when the figure is known, is in that (low) vicinity… I would see that as a very high turnout. It may be recalled that the last elections in 1994, the turnout was then about 32 per cent,” he declared.
Nevertheless, Bulkan pointed out that despite the perceived low figures, Friday’s local government polls show that Guyanese are interested in the process. “I think it’s a vindication that people are interested in the process and even though it is a fact that yesterday [Friday] was only the second Local Government Elections in the last 45 years, it shows that our people still want to participate in this process,” he posited.
When asked whether declaring Friday as a public holiday would have facilitated a larger turnout, Government sought to defend its decision, pointing out that not all of Guyana was eligible to vote at the local government polls.
Minister Bulkan made reference to the area along the Linden/Soesdyke Highway (from Yarrowkabra to Linden) that is not under an NDC or does not have a local government organ. He also mentioned a few other communities in the hinterland, including Rockstone.
Moreover, President Granger related that during a recent visit to Kortberaadt, East Bank Berbice, members of the community were asking to be included in an NDC so that they too can participate in LGEs.
“So there’re rural communities which are not entitled to vote so they couldn’t vote. Although they were in the General and Regional Elections, they were not able to vote (Friday),” he said, while adding that there is also an entire region (Eight – (Potaro-Siparuni)) that does not have any local authority areas.