THE POWER TO VOTE
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MOST citizens are, by now, aware of a viral voice note which was making its way around social media over the past few weeks. The voice note warned that a certain political party was in the process of employing tactics to undermine citizens’ right to vote, particularly younger citizens. The voice note alleges that money has passed hands in order to ensure an environment of fear and intimidation is created with the overall goal being to dissuade electors from exercising their right to vote.

The allegations have not been verified by any official investigation so they remain allegations. It might seem conspiratorial to attach credence to the allegations in the voice note but such allegations are nothing new when it comes to how politics is played in our democracy and indeed many others around the world. Nonetheless, voter intimidation tactics are nothing new and are certainly not unusual in some nations with traditionally weak systems of governance or dictatorial regimes. In this regard, Guyana shares a common history with many other developing nations where elections often attract the interest of international groups who monitor elections to ensure that they are free and fair.

The purpose of the elections is to ensure that citizens are able to exercise their constitutional right to freely and fairly elect their government representatives from a list of suitable candidates. Consequently, the right to vote is exercised when electors select their chosen candidates by voting on a ballot paper. According to Merriam-Webster, the word vote means “a usually formal expression of opinion or will in response to a proposed decision; especially: one given as an indication of approval or disapproval of a proposal, motion or candidate for office.” Therefore, citizens are formally giving their approval or disapproval of our presidential candidates when they chose to exercise their right to vote. Key emphasis should be placed on the citizens, i.e. electors will formally express their opinions. It might seem elementary to overstate the process in this manner but its relative simplicity in rhetoric is often overshadowed by our nations’ ability to pragmatically execute the electoral process thus.

Until the 2015 elections, the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) was elected to office in Guyana for a total of 23 years. Their track record in office has been the topic of many conversations, debates and reports and continues to come under scrutiny by citizens locally and the international community at large. There have been numerous scandals and allegations of corruption and impropriety at the highest levels of office for years under that administration. In May 2015 when Guyanese chose to elect the A Party for National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) Coalition government, they expressed their will quite clearly.

Guyanese, again, need to tap into our power to vote and make our collective will be known on March 2, 2020. It might seem trite to state the importance of acting in the upcoming elections but there is truly a lot at stake. In the time since the incumbent administration has taken office, Guyanese have been able to see progress in areas where there had been longstanding stagnation. Key sectors such as security, healthcare, infrastructure, telecommunications and tourism have all received investment which had led to palpable changes for Guyanese throughout the nation. The government has been able to establish a track record in a relatively short tenure.

Young Guyanese in particular should be minded to stand guard against those who might seek to circumvent their will to elect who they truly wish to see take the highest office in the land. We have to secure a future for all Guyanese regardless of race, class, creed or any other differentiator. The need to move forward in unity towards prosperity and development is being felt in Guyana. Citizens must answer that call by exercising their right to vote. It is a powerful right and one that does not come around often but when it does, it has the ability to truly shape our future for generations to come.

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