Gov’t looking to achieve over 50% voter turnout at LGE

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By Bibi Khatoon

Minister of Communities, Ronald Bulkan has not yet set a definitive date for local government elections later this year, but the Government has begun putting measures in place to ensure a greater participation this time around.

One of the issues the Government is looking to address this year is the voter turnout, given the fact that in 2016, the turnout was barely 40% in some areas.

The 2016 Local Government Elections was hosted after over two decades.

Minister Bulkan at a press conference on Thursday, January 4, 2018, said the Ministry is looking to top 50%, a percentage which in his view is on par with the voter turnout globally for local elections.

Minister of Communities, Ronald Bulkan

Some $2.9B has been allocated to the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) to complete the preparations and hosting of the elections, the Government Minister said.

He noted too that GECOM is responsible for the majority of voter education. However, on Thursday when News Room contacted Chairman of GECOM, Justice James Patterson to discuss the Commission’s preparations, he said he is not doing press interviews at this point in time.

According to the country’s constitution, the elections should be hosted between November 1 and December 7 of the year at the level of the Neighborhood and Regional Democratic Councils. However, there is no specific timeframe for municipalities.

“The intention is for the harmonization of legislation to seek to allow for the holding of municipal elections at the same time with NDC areas and to harmonise it within the same timeframe as provided for under the local government act,” Minister Bulkan disclosed.

He pointed to the importance of participating in the elections, noting that citizens need to understand that the elected members are responsible for the development of their communities.

“The candidates that will emerge out of those elections are the persons who will have immediate responsibility for all of the activities within those respective areas,” he emphasized.

At the 2016 elections, the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) gained 123, 564 votes under the proportional representation (PR) component of the elections compared to 98,670 for APNU+AFC. This is 24, 894 votes more than APNU+AFC.

In the municipalities, APNU+AFC won the popular vote in Georgetown, Linden, New Amsterdam, Mabaruma, Bartica and Lethem. Anna Regina, Rose Hall and Corriverton went to the PPP/C.

However, as it relates to Mabaruma, APNU+AFC and the PPP/C won three seats each under the PR component and under the first-past-the-post (FPTP) component leaving the councils in a tie.

This is one issue which brought about conflicts since a second election was not called within the constituencies. It is the hope of many that the presence of a Local Government Commission this year, will solve such an issue.

PPP/C took control of 43 councils in addition to three NDCs for which there were no contests while the APNU+AFC took the popular vote in 11 NDCs in addition to one for which there was a no contest. Only two NDCs were won by independent groups.

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