Lack of voter education blamed for poor turnout
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AFTER an absence of 23 years, Local Government Elections were finally held in Guyana; but some people are of the view that more voter education was needed for it to have optimum participation, especially in communities in East Berbice/Corentyne, Region Six.David Subnauth, who contested the Number 53/74 NDC as an independent party, the National Congress of Progressive People’s Alliance (NCPPA) said: “GECOM has failed the voters miserably. They were not properly educated on what Local Government is all about. People 40 years and younger never voted, and they don’t know what the Local Government Elections are about. Many persons think they (were) voting for general (elections).”

He was prompted to contest the elections, he said, after seeing the need to be the voice of his people, as opposed to someone from a political party that is based in Georgetown.

“I feel that the major political parties should not have taken part in this election at the local level, which concerns the day-to-day bread-and-butter of the residents,” Subraj said.

He added: “And no political party based in Georgetown can attend to the affairs of the people (in Region Six); the people should be given a chance to select a person in their community, who they have confidence in, to represent them, so as to have improvement and development.”

But Subnauth’s opinions aside, the general consensus is that, throughout the Region, the process was smooth, and saw a relatively decent turnout.

The Guyana Chronicle has since learnt that many thought they were voting for a new political party to replace the one currently in power. This was evident in several areas, especially those with traditionally high support for the Opposition.

Asked what he thought about the process, and what it was like to vote for LGE, one man blurted out: “Abee ah vote fuh get Granger out!”

Another concern of the people was that because they did not see the APNU/AFC coalition on the ballot paper in some areas, they did not support those candidates representing that coalition; hence they did not vote, but instead submitted blank ballot papers.
Some, for want of an eraser to rectify their mistake, simply submitted the ballot as was.

A resident of Portuguese Quarters, Port Mourant, expressed disappointment after leaving the polling station at the Port Mourant Primary School. And the reason she was disappointed, she said, was because she was nervous. So, instead of placing an X in the appropriate box, she placed a tick.

“I only realised after I came out the box…I was so sad that my vote was lost,” she said.

To all appearances, voter turnout for the LGE was small when compared to General Elections, as there were hardly any lines at most polling stations.

Older voters turned out early in the morning to cast their ballots, while the younger ones and working class were seen trickling in at either lunchtime or in the afternoon.

Some 324 constituencies were contested in Region 6 (East Berbice-Corentyne), and the entire process was described as smooth and generally incident-free.

Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo was seen at polling stations in New Amsterdam and elsewhere in the region, observing the process; while his predecessor, Sam Hinds, was seen in Corriverton.

In Fyrish Village, a 72-year-old man was heard encouraging a group of young men to go out and vote.
“Now (that) people get more power, you should go out and vote,” he said, adding: “You young people don’t realise how important one vote is…. I waited long for this, and (am) happy that I can make a difference. You should do the same.”

In some areas, the older folks, both male and female, some as old as 90, made it their duty to come out and vote. Such was their excitement it was written all over their faces as they made their way to their respective polling stations.

Early in the day, voter turnout was somewhat poor, with no lines or crowds to talk about at most polling stations. On average, the number of persons at a polling station at any one time was no more than 30. In many cases, there were no lines at all.

The three areas that had the largest turnout in terms of waiting lines were at the Berbice Islamic School at Ankerville, Port Mourant, and at the Numbers 46 and 57 villages. Also, turnout at Rose Hall Town was fairly reasonable.

While there were some who were present at the opening of polls, most started to trickle in at about 08:00hrs. In Albion and Fyrish, voter turnout was also slow. In Rose Hall Town and Corriverton, business seemed pretty brisk as per normal. One business owner said some of his staff members had reported for work a bit late, as they had first gone to vote before reporting for work.

At various polling stations on the Corentyne Coast, many voters expressed disappointment at turning up where they’d voted for General Elections only to be told they had to vote elsewhere.

One elderly man said he was not going out to vote because of the long stairs he’d have to climb at one polling station, and he does not want to vote by proxy.

From speaking with some people, it was apparent they many were clueless about the nature of the elections, as they largely felt they were voting for a change of government.

One woman who spoke on condition of anonymity said: “Me vote fuh tek Granger out.” With that, she smiled and walked away. It was her first time voting at LGE.

Another said, “If they know they keeping this election, why dem nah educate the people more. Some people think this election just like the big one.”

At Number 46 Village, 70-year-old Totaram Budhoo said it was the first time he was voting at local government elections. He said he was proud to have exercised his right, and is optimistic that once the councillors are in position, they will do the best for their communities.

He also said it matters not which party is in power; once the councillors get the support from Central Government, communities will flourish.

At Number 56 Village, an 80-year-old said it was the second time he was voting. The last time he had so done, he said, was at general elections.

In most areas, polling started on time, with a few minor hiccups, one of which was folks turning up where they voted for general elections.

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