Last Updated on Tuesday, 13 June 2023, 18:29 by Denis Chabrol
General Secretary of the People’s Progressive Party (PPP), Bharrat Jagdeo on Tuesday said the results of the 2023 Local Government Elections (LGE) show that his party has made in-roads in traditional opposition strongholds, but Opposition Leader Aubrey Norton said those defectors were bribed with State resources.
“When they are beaten, in normal Jagdeoan style, he resorted to talking about making in-roads. I do not believe that you make inroads by buying votes. You make inroads when you have a genuine political movement that goes on the ground, does political work and people buy into it. This is a clear case of mass scale bribery and we don’t see it as making inroads,” Mr Norton told a news conference. No specific incontrovertible evidence has been provided, though the opposition has charged that small-scale contracts, payment of monies to wear red jerseys and part-time jobs all amount to vote buying.
Mr Jagdeo on Monday denied that opposition accusation.
Acknowledging that LGE voter-turnouts are low, the A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) Chairman said based on the amount of State resources spent on early delivery of children’s cash grant and land and air transportation for electioneering, the turnout amounted to a rejection of the national incumbent PPP. “Generally there is a low voter turnout in LGEs but if you take into consideration the kind of money the PPP spent and they get that low turnout then it’s a clear rejection. If we had spent that kind of money and we didn’t do well, I would have resigned,” said Mr Norton who is also the Leader of the Afro-Guyanese-backed People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR).
City Mayor, Ubraj Narine, at a separate news conference attributed the loss of several seats in the Georgetown City Council to the PPP to insufficient political work. ”
Mr Norton, for his part, said his APNU improved its showing in several areas including Bush Lot, and Plegt Anker and regained control of the Buxton-Foulis Neighbourhood Council but he gave no numbers. He said the PPP won all the seats in Port Kaituma, Mabaruma, Matthews Ridge, something that had never happened when the contest was done on a level playing field.
The PPP General Secretary, however, provided figures showing that his party increased its electoral support manyfold in Georgetown, Linden and New Amsterdam that were all historically regarded as PNCR-APNU strongholds. “Almost every part of this country, we have seen either an overwhelming victory for the party or massive gains in places where we traditionally were not strong and so it was only because of those who supported this party that victory was possible,” said Mr Jagdeo, Guyana’s 2nd Vice President.
He specifically thanked APNU supporters, saying they have been “accepted wholeheartedly into our family” to forge a united Guyana, even as he detailed preliminary results showing that the PPP won the majority of the votes in seven of the 10 towns. Specifically, in New Amsterdam Mr Jagdeo said the PPP won 3 constituencies and APNU 4 but overall APNU will occupy 8 seats and PPP will six in contrast to the 2018 LGE which served up 11 for APNU and 3 for PPP. In 2018, he said PPP got 470 votes and in 2023 the PPP secured 1,764 votes.
For Georgetown, the PPP General Secretary said unofficial results show that his party has won 5 of the 15 constituencies, up from 3 in 2018 and has requested a recount in another where there is a 4 vote gap and a large number of spoiled votes.
In 2018, the PPP got 6,813 votes in Georgetown and the got 12,266 votes in 2023. “That is major by any standard when you can increase your votes significantly,” he said, noting that many of those votes came from traditional PNCR-APNU strongholds such as the heart of Sophia with an increase by 528, 473 votes in Charlestown-Albouystown, 528 in TucVille- North Ruimveldt, 468 in East and West Ruimveldt. “These are sizeable numbers and it’s evenly spread not just in North Georgetown but across Georgetown if you look at the results so nearly double the amount of people, who voted PPP in 2018, voted for us in these Local Government Elections and from many areas that were garrison areas for APNU where tiny number of votes we got… so this is definition of a wipe-out in your base” he said.
The PPP General Secretary conceded that APNU got more votes in Linden but the PPP’s votes moved from 402 in 2018 to 2,464 in 2023. Official results from GECOM show that APNU won all eight constituencies, APNU got 6 proportional representation seats and the PPP 2 seats from that category.
In Bartica, he said the PPP’s popular vote moved from 1,147 in 2018 to 1,784 in 2023 and APNU dropped from 1,913 in 2019 to 1,601 in 2023.
He said the PPP would win outright 63 of the 80 Local Authority Areas, and four others would be tied but the PPP would chair those councils due to its majority of votes. In contrast, he said APNU would win 18 of those areas outright, down from 23 in the 2018 Local Government Elections. “This is clearly a wipe-out… That’s a definition of a massive victory. That is how you define a landslide,” he said.
But Mr Norton maintained that he was not worried about the PPP’s performance in PNCR-APNU strongholds because that was the work of vote buying and bribery. “Not deeply concerned. The results they have for the level of money they spent, the bribery they were involved in, the corruption they were involved in, I wouldn’t be worried. What we will do is take our time and ensure we continue to sensitise people so that by the next election, they will diminish further,” he said.
While APNU did not contest all of the Local Authority Areas in the 2023 LGE because it needed to manage its limited resources, Mr Norton said Monday’s polls were a dry-run for the 2025 General and Regional Elections which would be contested in all areas. He vowed that the LGE momentum would be taken into the LGE. “This, for me, was a dry-run for the general and regional elections and, as I see it, what we have to do is to keep the forces together, expand in terms of bringing in people to work and then continue to prepare to oil the machinery for whenever general elections are called,” he said.
Mr Norton was confident that APNU would win the 2025 General and Regional Elections based on organisation and grassroots work. “It’s a victory against domination and control” we did grassroots work and this was a victory for grassroots work. Our people worked tirelessly; we worked hard and we got the victory we deserve…Above all, these elections manifested the fact that with organisation and work, we can and will beat the People’s Progressive Party with whatever resources they have at their disposal,” he said.