The much-anticipated Local Government polls opened this morning after a 19-year-absence but the expected hype was marred by a disappointingly low turnout by eligible voters, and could have been the main contributing factor to an extremely peaceful and smooth process at most of the polling stations.
This low-turnout, so far, was despite fervent ‘last-minute’ calls yesterday by the governing APNU/AFC and Opposition PPP/C for eligible Guyanese in general and party supporters in particular to go out today and vote.
“I want you to go out and vote, exercise your franchise, this is your day, you worked for this, you longed for this, you dreamt for this, local government elections is here to stay. This is called people’s power so vote wisely, vote for people you trust in office,” Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo appealed.
Opposition Leader Dr Bharrat Jagdeo also appealed to eligible voters to ensure they go out and vote today.
“(Today’s) vote is an important one because the future of our communities is at stake and it is a chance for our people to support and participate in community-based democracy, and to elect the leaders who will work for their communities. I urge all Guyanese to turn out to the polls and cast their vote. I am also urging employers to allow their employees the time off to be able to cast their votes. Our vote is a robust tool, which must be used to ensure the people receive the leadership they want,” Dr Jagdeo appealed.
The voting process, since polls opened at 6:00 hrs this morning, was deemed to be going ‘very smooth’, despite a few minor hitches. For instance, in Best Village on the West Coast of Demerara, an elderly couple in their seventies, living at the same address for decades, had to search for their names at separate polling stations.
78-year-old Mahase Maraj found his name at a polling station in Best Village, while his 74-year-old wife, Hardai Maraj, had to vote at a polling station in the neighbouring village, Crane.
INews was told about other similar situations in the Best Village, as well as the Crane and Vreed-en-Hoop areas.
These minor hiccups, however, did not take away from the fact that the voting process was done in a very orderly, peaceful and smooth manner at all the polling stations INews visited on the West Coast, West Bank, East Bank Essequibo, East Bank Demerara, East Coast Demerara and in several areas in Georgetown.
Our contact persons in Lethem and in Region One also reported smooth voting and relatively low turnout.
Meanwhile, the turnout of voters for this year’s Local Government Elections along the East Bank of Demerara is much lower than expected at this point in time.
When INews visited several polling stations in villages located on the EBD, there were hardly any persons at these polling places to vote.
The Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) staff at some of these sites expressed their dissatisfaction with the number of persons (or lack thereof) who have come out to cast their votes thus far.
INews understands that at the Diamond Secondary School where almost 2000 persons have been catered for, less than 300 individuals came out this morning to participate in the local polls – up to 11:00 hrs this morning.
Meanwhile at in the villages of Grove, Herstelling and Eccles, although persons have been trickling in to vote, the total against how many were registered to vote is far below the 50 per cent mark.
However it is hoped that by the end of the day more persons would turn out and cast their vote for the individual/ Party that they wish to support.
A few persons on the streets explained that many individuals have signaled their intention not to vote in the LGE for various reasons.
Some contend that it should have been made a national holiday which would have allowed a greater number of persons the opportunity of voting since many have jobs to attend to.
Others argued that they already voted in the General Elections held in May, 2015 and they do not see the need for voting in this LGE which could re-shape the local democratic landscape of the political system in Guyana.
PRESIDENT, OPPOSITION LEADER VOTE
President David Granger was among some of the first eligible voters to cast his vote at the Enterprise Primary School this morning, while Opposition Leader Dr Bharrat Jagdeo cast his vote at the St. John’s College on waterloo Street, Georgetown.
General Secretary of the Opposition PPP/C, Clement Rohee, voted at 6:30am at the Eccles Elementary school.
It should be noted that local government elections are extremely important and persons have a democratic and constitutional right to vote.
Most of the town and neighborhood democratic councils which were elected at the last local government elections in 1994 have been replaced by government–appointed Interim Management Committees and several are currently dysfunctional.
Guyanese are voting in some 71 Local Authority areas including 62 Neighbour Democratic Council.