TODAY marks three years since Guyanese cast their ballots in the General and Regional Elections (GRE), which has seen a shift in the country’s political dynamics.
After 23 years in the executive, the People’s Progressive Party/ Civic (PPP/C) lost the confidence of the majority and was placed in the Opposition. Preceding the 2015 GRE was the results of 2011, when the incumbent government lost majority control of the National Assembly but gained the plurality to form the Executive. 2011 was the first time in post-independent Guyana that a sitting Executive did not have majority control in the National Assembly. This signalled the beginning of obvious change in the determination of voting patterns and results.
Citizens became more alert and interested in the management of the country’s affairs and conduct of their elected representatives in the discharge of duties on their behalf. This level of awareness and consciousness were in part influenced by global dynamics, a few local militant voices, and increasing presence and access to media–formal and social.
Guyanese not only had the opportunity to share their experiences and engage in feedback unhindered by geographic constrain, but also benefitted from interaction with overseas counterparts and events happening in other countries. This atmosphere educated and served as motivation more particularly for the young and techno savvy to get involved in politics. The young, which makes up more than half of the population and once considered a relative apathetic voting bloc, rose from this state and decided they were going to ‘Vote like a Boss.’ The vote for them in 2015 represented an important tool to personally effect change in their lives through the political process. To the incumbent’s credit–A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) and Alliance For Change (AFC) –during their period in opposition and having held the majority in the Legislature, they succeeded in shining light on the management of the nation’s business under the presidency of Messrs Bharrat Jagdeo and Donald Ramotar. Exposure of mismanagement of the nation’s resources and intolerance, demonstrated to those who questioned same, contributed to the people registering their dissatisfaction via their votes.
The APNU+AFC, running as a single force against the PPP/C and the platform they campaigned on, instilled confidence among sections of society that a change, consistent with their desire, is possible and worthy of working towards. This platform addressed what the people considered important issues, such as unity, accountable government, respect for citizens’ views, rights and the rule of law, and the promise of a ‘Good Life.’
Three years after there will obviously be reflections and deliberations as to whether 11th May 2015 turned out to or is morphing into what the people voted for. This is the nature of free speech in a democracy. That being said, there has been movement in the direction, as promised to the people. For instance, local government elections were held, the Anti-Money Laundering and the Financing of Terrorism Bill passed, reduction of the Berbice Bridge toll, restoration of sanitary conditions in Georgetown and its environs. Billions have been spent
in building roads in the hinterland and upgrading those on the coastland. Guyana has made tremendous strides in repairing its tattered international image and has finally gotten the United Nations to send the decades-old border controversy with Venezuela for juridical settlement at the International Court of Justice. Additionally, parliamentary norms are being observed; rights and constitutional commissions established. There is greater transparency in the public sphere, with Guyana moving up the corruption index where it was buried under the PPP administration. Recently, we heard of the country’s press freedom rating climbing five points on the index and our response to narco and human trafficking have been lauded.
As President David Granger recently said, his Government is a learning government and while learning, teething problems would be expected during this period. That being said, the government has to be mindful of the awareness and awakening of militancy in the people. Where conduct considered unsavory during former governments, it is not
unreasonable to expect manifestation of these will create outcries. From 2011, Guyanese are seeing themselves personally invested in the political processes. President Granger and Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo, in recognition and appreciation of this, campaigned on commitment to govern through inclusionary democracy and on assuming offices, the people were told by the president to hold his administration accountable.