Elec­tion mark­ers

Stabroek News Sunday - - REGIONAL NEWS -

There were three dis­tinct mark­ers about the 2018 lo­cal govern­ment elec­tions that poll watch­ers and an­a­lysts will be mulling. The first, of course, would have been the per­for­mance of the main con­tenders. In­cum­bents don’t gen­er­ally fare well at any type of mid-term elec­tion be it lo­cal govern­ment or oth­er­wise so the poor re­turn to APNU could pos­si­bly be mit­i­gated in that vein. How­ever, the mar­gin of the loss by APNU to the PPP/C - 61% to 34% will be of great worry to Congress Place. While the turnout across the coun­try was dis­mal, the PPP/C was able to mo­bilise a much higher num­ber of vot­ers to go to the polling sta­tions which speaks to grass roots ma­chin­ery and or­gan­i­sa­tion. With Gen­eral Elec­tions less than two years away and the stakes rolling higher and higher as the days go by, the PPP/C will have enough grist for its mill and its sup­port­ers will be kept primed for vot­ing.

Deep into the fourth year of its gov­er­nance, APNU was not able to in­spire vot­ers, par­tic­u­larly in its piv­otal base of Ge­orge­town – 28% went to the polls - to cast their bal­lots. This was no doubt com­pounded by the re­al­ity that the grass roots net­work of APNU’s main con­stituent, the PNCR is not as en­trenched as that of the PPP/C. As was pointed out in last Sun­day’s ed­i­to­rial, the lack­lus­tre turnout by APNU sup­port­ers saw the PPP/C cap­tur­ing three con­stituency seats in Ge­orge­town for a to­tal of seven seats com­pared to the pal­try two seats it won in 2016. Whereas APNU+AFC won 25 seats at the city coun­cil in 2016 as a coali­tion, con­test­ing sep­a­rately at these elec­tions, the two groups are now down to 23 with APNU gain­ing 21 and the AFC two seats. The coali­tion is not at risk of los­ing con­trol of the city but the PPP/C has gained a psy­cho­log­i­cal boost. The con­fig­u­ra­tion at the coun­cil as a re­sult of the 2018 elec­tion aligns more with the re­al­ity. In the 1994 lo­cal govern­ment elec­tions, the Hamil­ton Green fac­tion of the PNC cap­tured twelve seats, the Hoyte PNC 10 seats and the PPP/C eight seats.

The poor turnout for APNU in Ge­orge­town could very well ex­plain the now overt sig­nals from the govern­ment that good­ies are on the way and in a sus­tained way. The Finance Min­is­ter Win­ston Jor­dan has made bold to say that there will be in­creases for govern­ment work­ers in 2018, 2019 and 2020 when such a pro­nounce­ment can hardly be in his prov­ince par­tic­u­larly in the con­text of a coali­tion govern­ment and moreso in light of the tight fi­nan­cial cir­cum­stances likely up un­til 2020. The ur­gency to pla­cate the govern­ment’s base was also un­der­lined by the gazetting on Fri­day of reg­u­la­tions for a tax-free wages and salary in­crease for 2018 to pub­lic ser­vants and pub­lic of­fi­cers. This is all quite un­con­scionable when one con­sid­ers that work­ers in the pro­duc­tive sec­tor, the sugar in­dus­try have not been con­sid­ered for any type of im­prove­ment in con­di­tions.

APNU’s loss of the towns of Lethem and Mabaruma to the PPP/C should be alarm­ing to the gov­ern­ing par­ties. The govern­ment pi­o­neered these two towns and poured re­sources into their de­vel­op­ment along with the usual blan­dish­ments. Yet, its cit­i­zens gave vic­tory to the PPP/C. Some deep level of dis­af­fec­tion has fil­tered through these towns and may have to do with the way APNU+AFC has re­lated to these com­mu­ni­ties.

There is one other point to be made about the per­for­mance of the par­ties at these elec­tions. APNU’s de­ci­sion to cut the AFC loose by deny­ing it an ac­cord for the 2018 LGE has de­liv­ered the ex­pected wipe­out of the AFC. No mat­ter the spin by its lead­ers, the AFC, cur­rently hold­ing 12 seats in Par­lia­ment, has been re­duced to the ver­i­ta­ble ‘lef lef’. The elec­torate doesn’t see it as a third party any­more or one that has a hint of in­de­pen­dence from APNU. It lost this ca­chet when it un­think­ingly sup­ported the uni­lat­eral ap­point­ment of a chair­man of GECOM. It won’t be seen as a foil for the PPP/C in the fu­ture or a haven for in­de­pen­dents or the swing vote. Space has now been carved open for gen­uine in­de­pen­dents or a third party to pre­pare for en­try to the 2020 elec­toral race.

The sec­ond marker is the per­for­mance of GECOM at the elec­tions. From all in­di­ca­tions, it was able to ef­fec­tively man­age the ar­range­ments lead­ing up to the elec­tions notwith­stand­ing the in­ter­nal fric­tions. It was able to pre­side over the nom­i­na­tion day events even if there was joust­ing over the rec­ti­tude of the process at Whim/ Bloom­field and other places. Bal­lot pa­pers were pro­duced for the dozens of dif­fer­ent con­stituen­cies all across the coun­try and elec­tions ma­teriel was chan­nelled to the hun­dreds of polling sta­tions. There have been no sus­tained com­plaints about names of vot­ers not be­ing found on their des­ig­nated lists. There was suf­fi­cient and trained staff for polling day and the count­ing pro­cesses were com­pleted

with­out in­ci­dent. The ma­chin­ery worked. De­spite as­sur­ances, how­ever, from GECOM, of­fi­cial re­sults were re­leased late even though the largest lo­cal au­thor­ity area, Ge­orge­town re­ported promptly. Con­cerns have since been raised about vi­o­la­tions of pro­ce­dures for the cast­ing of proxy bal­lots at Mabaruma. This must be thor­oughly in­ves­ti­gated and the Re­turn­ing Of­fi­cer (RO) brought to ac­count. Were there ad­e­quate in­struc­tions to all RO’s on this mat­ter?

GECOM gets pass­ing marks for the elec­tions and must now be­gin pre­par­ing for the gen­eral elec­tions and ad­dress­ing ques­tions such as the size of the na­tional reg­is­ter of reg­is­trants and how it is to be purged of the names of those who are dead or no longer el­i­gi­ble to vote. The 2020 gen­eral elec­tions will be closely watched as it should be and hope­fully by ob­servers of the var­i­ous in­sti­tu­tions that have kept watch over the years. Ad­e­quate prepa­ra­tions must be made to cover vi­tal ar­eas such as in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy and the re­port­ing of re­sults. An ur­gent de­ter­mi­na­tion has to be made about elec­toral needs and GECOM must re-en­gage with the UN sys­tem on what help is pos­si­ble.

The third marker is the open­ing of the land­scape for the se­lec­tion of the PPP/C’s pres­i­den­tial can­di­date. Hav­ing led the PPP/C to a win at the Lo­cal Govern­ment Elec­tions, Op­po­si­tion Leader Jagdeo now faces the im­per­a­tive of rec­on­cil­ing that role with the need to cre­ate space for the PPP/C to elect its pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee and to give that per­son wide berth be­tween now and 2020. The health of the pol­i­tics of this coun­try re­quires that the PPP/C com­pletes the process of choos­ing a can­di­date el­i­gi­ble to be­come Pres­i­dent. That can­di­date must be able to com­mand the con­fi­dence of the mem­bers of the party and the wider pub­lic in the abil­ity to ad­vance an agenda for the good gov­er­nance of the coun­try and the de­vel­op­ment chal­lenges that will come with the oil and gas in­dus­try.

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