Local Govt Elections: PPP won’t predict performance in Georgetown; APNU remains confident despite defections

Last Updated on Monday, 17 April 2023, 15:21 by Denis Chabrol

APNU and PPP supporters at Lamaha and Albert Streets, Georgetown. General Secretary of the People’s Progressive Party (PPP), Bharrat Jagdeo on Monday refused to say categorically  whether he believed that his political organisation would for the first time  clinch a majority to control the Georgetown City Council in the June 12, 2023 Local Government Elections, although the slate of candidates is evidently not mainly traditional Indo-Guyanese supporters.

“We don’t forecast things. We work hard and we let the residents decide. We campaign hard. We are very reluctant to forecast about that. That is dependent on the voters but we are going to take a strong message of development to every corner of the City as we will do right across the country,” he said when asked by Demerara Waves Online News.

Parties, groups and independents were told to submit their nominees at the Returning Offices in the 70 neighbourhood and 10 municipal districts.

APNU representative, Troy Garraway was brimming with confidence after presenting the candidates to the Guyana Elections Commission’s Returning Officer. “We just submitted the winning list; the list that is going to reclaim Georgetown. The last time around we lost four seats. This time we are looking to reclaim those four seats through this list.  We are confident that all of our candidates are strong in their constituency,” he said. He said APNU+AFC lost the four seats due to complacency but this time around, had decided to put “boots on the ground” in every constituency and selected prospective councillors with a mix of experience and new faces.

And the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) sought to pour cold water on the PPP securing the cross-over support of at least two former APNU+Alliance For Change city councillors- former Mayor Patricia Chase-Greene and Trichria Richards- for the 30-seat elected body of decision-makers.  “She cannot take any support from our party. In fact, Patricia Chase enjoyed being on the Council through the support of the party so she leaving doesn’t take her with any of our supporters. We supported her more than she supported us,” Mr Garraway said. Concerning Ms Richards’ switch to the PPP, he said she was free to exercise her right. “In our party, we allow democracy to prevail. If, at some point, Trichria felt that she wasn’t getting what she was looking for through being on the council for APNU, she decided to go to the other side, we wish her well,”  Mr Garraway added.

But Mr Jagdeo said he believed that Ms Greene walked away from APNU and embraced the PPP because of its offering. “I think it’s about the development and the focus that the People’s Progressive Party has brought not only to the country and to our people and also that we want to bring to the city a development focus,” he said. He brushed off a question about whether he had put the parking meter issue behind him and the PPP. “We believe there are lots of people who come to the party and we want to ensure that we move forward as a country. We’ve moved forward from some of the most egregious things. The APNU tried to steal the last elections and we have moved forward from that. Why can’t we move forward from other issues?,” he said. Several PNCR officials and then senior officials of the Guyana Elections Commission are before he courts for alleged electoral fraud. Government also commissioned a multi-million dollar commission of inquiry into the March 2020 elections.

Ms Chase-Green had put the then APNU+AFC central government under pressure for piloting a controversial parking meter project that had sparked off daily mass protests outside City Hall. The then David Granger-led administration had been forced to shelve the project due to the outcry, but the owners, Smart City Solutions, have since taken Guyana to arbitration.

For her part, the usually outspoken Ms Greene was on this occasion very constrained in her responses to reporters’ questions including whether she felt that the parking meter project that she had spearheaded would earn her or the PPP votes in the Local Government Elections. “I would make a statement later. I have said what I had to say just now. One Guyana, unity and progress… We are moving forward. Aren’t we?,” she said. Asked what influenced her decision to switch political allegiance, she would only say “One Guyana, unity and progress”

Other new faces backing the PPP in its quest to wrest control of Georgetown from the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR)-led A Partnership for National Unity include sport journalist and administrator Frankie Wilson as well as radio personality Malcolm Ferreira who had previously contested local elections as an independent.

APNU pitched its new faces as PNCR its youth arm chairman Kibwe Copeland and Phillip Drayton.

The Local Government Elections  are to be held for 70 neighbourhood councils and 10 towns , but usually Georgetown is the seat of attraction.

The traditionally Indo-Guyanese backed PPP put on a contingent, which included numerous Afro-Guyanese, that appeared more organised in accompanying their representatives to the GECOM Returning Office for Georgetown. On the other hand, APNU’s smaller contingent reflected its historical predominant Afro-Guyanese support base. Responding to that, Mr Garraway  hinted that the PPP was buying support. “All of our candidates are candidates who came to us with a willingness to represent their constituency. “I’m not convinced that I can say that for the other parties or groupings that are contesting. You see what is going on social media. Most of these parties are paying people to contest and they are bullying some people to contest,” he said.

PNCR Leader Aubrey Norton is already on record as accusing the PPP of creating a false impression that it is attracting Afro-Guyanese support. He had forecast that the PPP would be disappointed by such a strategy when the ballots are counted.

As the APNU supporters walked to the Critchlow Labour College to present their list of nominees, they chanted “Georgetown not for sale”, “Georgetown not for sale”. Minutes earlier they traded insults with PPP supporters who walked to western side of the Lamaha Railway Embankment.

The Alliance For Change boycotted the elections, citing  dirty voters lists.