Employers must allow workers to go vote in LGE – Opposition Leader

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As the final countdown to the 2018 Local Government Elections (LGE) approaches, the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) is encouraging employers to avoid preventing staff from exercising their democratic right to vote.

This call was recently made by Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo, and it came as candidates from the various parities make their final pitch to convince the electorate to cast votes in their favour.

“I think they should allow employees to go and vote. People have a civic responsibility to vote. On a few places on the campaign trail, I’ve sought to reinforce the need of people to come out and vote … this is not for PPP supporters alone; this is for Guyanese as it is essentially part of our freedoms as people, that now we have this right, we must exercise it,” Jagdeo detailed.

Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo

Jagdeo’s comments came in light of questions from media operatives which sought to ascertain his position on the possibility of reduced working hours to facilitate the 2018 LGE. The Opposition Leader, in emphasising the value of casting one’s vote, spoke on historical gains received after his party contributed to Guyana gaining full adult suffrage 65 years ago. This meant that all persons, then over the age of 21, were allowed to vote in national elections, even though the country was still under the rule of the United Kingdom, a colonial power which retains certain overseas territories to the present day.

“You had to own property or be literate and at that time, not many people were literate, because the colonial authorities did not build schools in all of our communities and not many [persons] owned property. I am really proud of that history of the PPP – that we fought for universal adult suffrage,” the PPP General Secretary reminded.

Hundreds of candidates from the major political parties, smaller groups and individual candidates are vying for places as constituency representatives across 80 Local Authority Areas (LAAs) across the country’s 10 administrative districts. The elections are being held in 10 municipalities and 70 Neighbourhood Democratic Councils (NDCs) using a mixed electoral system of Proportional Representation (PR) and First Past the Post (FPTP).

Under the PR electoral system, parties gain seats in proportion to the number of votes cast for them in a municipality or NDC. For someone to be elected under the PR system, they must be on a party list or voluntary group list. Individuals cannot contest under the PR system.

Meanwhile, the FPTP system is one in which an individual gains victory by garnering the greatest number of votes. These candidates can come from a party, voluntary group or run as an independent.

Fifty per cent of Councillors for each municipality and NDC are elected through the PR system, while the other half comes from the FPTP component of the electoral system. Under the FPTP system, an individual candidate can contest for only one seat in a single constituency in which he or she is registered and resides. Candidates can only be nominated for one group for the PR and FPTP lists.

On Saturday, the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) published the names of each NDC, municipality, the various constituencies and the corresponding polling stations enabling voters to be aware of where they will have to cast their ballots.

GECOM has, however, been criticised for not doing enough in terms of voter education, but the elections body has expressed confidence that mechanisms were in place for a smooth flow during Monday’s election process.

The last Local Government polls were held in 2016 and over 500,000 Guyanese were registered to vote. However, voter turnout was recorded at 47 per cent.

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