Given the traditional low voter turn-out, March 18, the date for Local Government Elections (LGE), is unlikely to be declared a national holiday. This is according to Minister of Natural Resources, Raphael Trotman who was answering questions at a post-Cabinet press briefing at the Ministry of the Presidency, yesterday.
Minister Trotman said that based on its assessment, Government is of the view that “there is no need” for the day to be declared a national holiday. Providing further clarification, he explained that “traditionally in other parts of the world, local government elections are not treated – unfortunately – with the same level of importance and urgency as regional and national elections, and they are traditionally accompanied by lower turn out and lesser interest, so we do not see the need for a national holiday.”
He also pointed to Tuesday’s voting by the Disciplined Forces, noting that this provided a litmus test as to what to expect. “Perhaps it was a bit placid but orderly,” he observed.
Further, the Minister explained that all of the stakeholders involved, as well as the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), have agreed to wrap-up voter education and activism soon.
According to a GINA report, he explained that parties have agreed to just identify people “to get out and recognise what they have in hand is something historic and it is a previous gift to strengthen our democracy.”
Minister Trotman, noting the decision of the Education Ministry, observed that “this would mean that we can have school buildings used as polling stations and teachers who we rely on heavily to be polling agents.”
LGE will be held for the first time since 1994, on March 18. After almost two decades Guyanese will get an opportunity to elect new councillors to the six old municipalities, the four new ones; and 65 neighbourhood democratic councils.
PPP CALLS FOR HOLIDAY
Meanwhile, the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) yesterday called on the Government to declare March 18, 2016, the Local Government Elections Day, a public holiday.
In a press release issued yesterday afternoon, the PPP/C said that elections days have been invariably declared a national holiday in the past in order to facilitate electors across the political spectrum to vote.
“The PPP/C recalls that it was the APNU+AFC that was pushing aggressively for Local Government Elections claiming that people were anxious and excited about being empowered to direct their local officers. In addition, it is to be noted that thousands of electors reside out of their Constituencies and therefore a holiday would facilitate easy availability of time and space to exercise the franchise”, the party added.
In keeping with this tradition, the Party is hoping that the relevant authorities accede to the demand that March 18, 2016, be declared a national holiday.