39.7 percent of Disciplined Forces voted in Local Govt Elections; mixed reactions from parties

Last Updated on Sunday, 4 November 2018, 15:26 by Denis Chabrol

Only 39.7 percent of the 7,917 police, soldiers and prison guards, who were listed to vote last Friday in Local Government Elections (LGE) , actually voted, a senior official of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) said.

Chief Elections Officer, Keith Lowenfield said of the 4,693 members of the Guyana Police Force on the Disciplined Services voters’ list, only 1,938 cast ballots.

He said 1,022 of the 2,773 soldiers, who were due to vote, actually exercised their franchise. In the case of prison guards, 187 of 451 voted.

Lowenfield said Friday’s turnout by State security personnel was lower than in the 2016 LGE.

The three major parties- A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) , People’s Progressive Party (PPP) and the Alliance For Change (AFC)- offered mixed reactions to the overall turnout.

General Secretary of the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR), Amna Ally believed the low participation in the polls might have been due to apathy, absence of names on the voters  lists, no knowledge of who the candidates are and the need to educate the electorate more about the importance of local government.

Ally said her party would have to do more work to encourage the wider population to go out and vote on November 12, 2018. “I don’t have a percentage in mind but figuring out what has happened for D-Day, we are going to try to do some additional work for E-Day to make sure that people are sensitized and they come out,” she said. The PNCR is the biggest party in APNU.

Executive member of the PPP, Gail Teixeira believed the poor response by police, soldiers and prison guards was due to disenchantment about the way they were being treated by government.

“Many of the Disciplined Forces are not happy with the situation they are under. They haven’t had their thirteenth month extra salary that they got under the PPPC. Things are very rough for them so they are exercising their right not to vote,” she told Demerara Waves Online News. She predicted that PPP supporters would again turn out in their numbers to vote for candidates vying for seats on the town and neighbourhood councils.

The security services are overwhelmingly made up of African Guyanese who traditionally support PNCR/APNU.

AFC campaigner, Michael Carrington believed the unsatisfactory participation might be due to concerns at the way the capital, Georgetown, was being managed by the outgoing Mayor, Councillors and Town Clerk. “I can’t say there is a particular reason it happened but there were a lot of advertisements about local government but I think what is taking place at City Hall could upset people too because they want to know if this is what they are voting for,” he said. Carrington added that, while local issues matter, turnout at local polls is low because the electorate doesn’t see them as important.

The security services usually vote in elections ahead of the general public because they are expected to be in barracks or on standby when civilians are voting.

The Chief Elections Officer last Friday said members of the Disciplined Services, who did not vote because their names were not on the voters list, would be allowed to do so with the general population.

Sources said the numbers of unused ballots were 2,755 for police: 1,751 for soldiers and 264 for prison guards.