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Guyana voters keep peace

Ricky Jordan in Georgetown, Guyana

Guyana voters keep peace

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Word on the ground is there could be a change in Guyana when the 2011 general election takes place here on Monday.
But whatever the outcome, the electoral body has given an assurance that there should be no accompanying violence.
Chairman of the Guyana Electoral Commission, (GECOM) Dr Steve Surujbally, said late yesterday that the three major parties – the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C), A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) and Alliance For Change (AFU) – had all signed GECOM’s code of conduct and had so far lived up to it.
“The parties have not broken the code in any great way that would result in violence in the days ahead,” said Surujbally, noting that a code of ethics for journalists and election observers had also been established.
“By and large we have not had blood in the streets, mayhem or beatings for political expression in this election campaign,” he told a meeting of foreign observers that included groups from the CARICOM Secretariat, the Organization of American States and the South American-based UNASUR at the Hotel Tower yesterday.
He added that GECOM had done most of its groundwork in creating an environment of thoroughness and transparency since the last poll in 2006. That election, he added, represented “a bar that had been placed pretty high and we’re now trying to better it”.
To this end, the veteran electoral expert added, they had done a series of house-to-house visits over a six-month period in an effort to reach every nook and cranny of the 83 000-square-mile country with a population of 748 000. Other initiatives included new identification cards, fingerprint cross-matching exercises and strong public relations outreach programmes encouraging those of voting age to register and giving specific information on voting.
However, he said concerns arose about rumours that the absence of six-digit numbers from ballot papers used by the disciplined services yesterday meant that the elections were being rigged.
The GECOM head said that the six-digit numbers would be stamped when the ballots cast today are dispatched to their respective polling stations for inclusion in Monday’s count.
Meanwhile, “change” was the buzzword yesterday.
Wendy, a vendor said that with many younger voters expected to turn out on Monday, there could be a change in the administration.
“People want change, man. There’s still a lot of crime and thing. Crime is high,” she said from her set-up near to a city nightclub.
But young voter Malika said things might remain the same since most people voted “based on culture”. “We have a lot of young voters and that’s where the Alliance For Change (AFC) is focusing, but the People’s Progessive Party (PPP) has been in power for about 20 years, so they are very confident. They have lots of campaigns, ads, posters and the unity concert (slated for the National Stadium today),” she said.
Another young voter lamented the lack of new vision among the older Guyanese, particularly those of East Indian stock. “Most of the old ways of seeing Guyana are embedded in the older folk . . . .”
Added Malika: “A lot of people say they want change but in actuality they will not vote for change.”