By Ariana Gordon
PRESIDENT David Granger has expressed optimism that there was a fair voter turnout on Friday, during what has been the country’s third Local Government Elections (LGE) after gaining independence.Speaking with reporters at the Enterprise Primary School, where he and First Lady Sandra Granger were the first to cast their votes, the President said he was not worried about what appeared to be a low voter turnout earlier in the day.
He stressed: “It is hours early yet” before persons turn out to vote in their constituencies, and said he had a feeling of great satisfaction that the APNU+AFC coalition has been able to deliver LGE, something that the people of the country had craved for two decades.
“I feel very happy, very satisfied, that we’ve been able to deliver local democracy to our citizens,” the President said, as he noted that the hosting of LGE on Friday completed “the circle of democratic governance in Guyana.”
“It is a working day, and it is not a holiday like normal general elections. I expect that there is going to be a fairly good turnout,” he disclosed.
The President said he had seen much excitement regarding the holding of Local Government Elections over the past two months, and he expected that excitement would be translated into persons voting.
“I am sure (that) even if we don’t make the 72 per cent of the general and regional elections, I think we’d be coming close to that,” President Granger declared, while noting that in areas where he had campaigned “the mood was very electric.”
“I think (that) in all of the areas there is going to be a good turnout. People want change, and they want to be able to have the type of municipality which can give them that quality of life. I am not worried about the numbers or the outcome,” he declared.
The President was confident that the coalition would receive overwhelming support in Lethem, Bartica and Mabaruma, as those three areas had recently received township status. “This is something we promised since 2011, and I’ve been to all three…I have campaigned in all three, and they are very happy that it is the coalition that brought township…I think the coalition will have a decisive victory in all three.”
First Lady Sandra Granger called on all women to vote. She noted: “Women are smart enough to know that when they cast their ballots today they are going to have a say in their own local communities, because they can speak directly to their representatives.”
YOUTHS TO MANAGE GEORGETOWN
Like the President and First Lady, former Mayor of the municipality of Georgetown, Hamilton Green, who voted at the Enterprise Primary School, said it was his desire to see young people take over management of the city, so there could be progress.
Green told reporters: “At last, democracy has been emancipated. It is a good day for me, and I leave graciously, deliberately, and hope that someone else will take up the mantle to continue the restoration of Georgetown. We have been suffocated for 21 years, and I think it is time that we move forward; and the evidence is there that we are moving forward.”
Green, the longest-serving mayor in the history of the municipality of Georgetown, described the voting process as “very smooth and interesting.”
HELP THE ELDERLY
Yvonne O’Donoghue, a resident of Durban Backlands, Constituency 9, told reporters that this year marks the third occasion for her voting in LGE. “For as long as they have had Local Government Elections, I have been voting,” said O’Donoghue, who added: “It has been such a long time that I think I forgot.”
LGE was last held in Guyana in 1994. Prior to 1994, the elections were held in 1970. The elderly woman, who walks with a cane, said she wants to see a community centre resuscitated.
“Years ago, there was a community centre where you had the village office where you pay your rates and taxes and things like that. It will help the elderly. You won’t have to travel to Georgetown.”
The woman said that for every trip she has to make to central Georgetown, she is forced to spend $1000 for a return trip via taxi.
“Years ago, they [Community Centres] looked after the roads, lights, poles; they looked after everything, and the people were employed by the village. We want our people employed right here to keep our village clean,” O’Donoghue, commonly called “Aunty May”, stated.
CALM AND COMPOSED
Independent candidate Mia Ritchie told the Guyana Chronicle after voting that she felt “calm and composed”, and was optimistic that all will go well for her. She has contested Constituency 9, Lodge, Meadowbrook and Durban Backlands.
“Whatever happens happens…we are praying for the best,” Ritchie, who campaigned on Thursday night and just before she voted, said.
She said she went knocking “door to door” to encourage persons to vote, and “the feedback was amazing.”
“I am confident,” the independent candidate stated.
Like O’Donoghue and Ritchie, Eugenie Kippins joined the few persons who turned up to vote at the Enterprise Primary School before 06:30hrs. She said she had awakened early but didn’t want to rush to the polling station. “I thought about it, and as a matter of fact, when I got up this morning…I decided to water my plants and then get down to preparing to get here.”
The elderly woman said she was “anxiously awaiting that moment” to cast her vote. Friday was the first time Kippins had voted at LGE.
Former Deputy Mayor of the municipality of Georgetown, Patricia Chase-Green, told reporters after voting at the Tucville Primary School that she was not bothered by what appears to be a low voter turnout. She noted that even if Friday was declared a public holiday, it might not have changed the number of persons voting.
“Persons will come out to vote. I have been able to vote at a LGE before. There is always a very low turnout, and the people always come trickling in; but I am quite certain (that) before the day is over persons will come in.”
Asked why she believed persons would “trickle in,” Chase-Green said persons were generally less interested in Local Government Elections (LGE) as they believed that voting at the General Elections was enough. “It is never important to some people. In this Local Government Elections, there may be hype; it still needs to catch on…people still need to catch on that they have a voice in their community and they need to elect someone to be that voice in your community to speak out.”
The former Deputy Mayor believes that more needs to be done to educate the masses about local governance. “There should be some more education on LGE…it should continue, because this election is every three years, and general elections are every five years. Between now and the next three years, there should be workshops again, so people would have that interest and build that hype and interest in LG once again.”
She believes that in spite of the lack of education on LGE, it will attract more persons the next time it is held. “In the future, people will start coming out and appreciate what it is to be a leader in your community, where you can determine what are your priorities and what you’d like to have done,” she said.
Mrs Chase-Green has served as a councillor for 22 years, and as Deputy Mayor for approximately four years.
Asked why she believes she should contest the elections after serving for many years on the City Council, Chase-Green said she has the confidence of the voters.
“I have been the voice in the City Council for many years. Had it not been for myself and other councillors, like Mayor Greene, there would not have been Local Government Elections a day like today; because the previous Government was stifling the City Council.”
She explained that the majority of the roles and responsibilities of the City Council had been stripped by the former People’s Progressive Party (PPP) administration.
“We were at a point of debt. They had taken away almost all of the responsibilities…and all we would have been left there with, if we didn’t protest, was a skeleton,” she declared.