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Concern over low voter turnout

Ricky Jordan

Concern over low voter turnout

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GEORGETOWN – IF THERE IS a low voter turnout in Guyana tomorrow, few people should be surprised.
It’s because the day has been declared a national holiday and many who would normally trek from the most remote regions and take boat rides to work will, more than likely, remain at home.
That is the feeling among several Guyanese interviewed in the capital Georgetown yesterday as politicians prepare to contest the 65 seats in the National Assembly.
The election is being contested by three major parties: the ruling People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP-Civic) led by 65-year-old Donald Ramotar; A Partnership for National Unity (APNU), formed out of a coalition of the People’s National Congress and other interests led by Robert Corbin, and the Alliance For Change (AFC) led by Brigadier David Granger.
Security guard Ivan, who gave the SUNDAY SUN only his first name, said he was hoping for “some sort of change” – a switch to the APNU, whose programmes he described as more progressive. “But at the same time many may not come out to vote, even though they’re fed up because they’re not seeing any increase in jobs. I would like to see projects geared toward jobs,” he said.
While senior journalist Cheryl Springer echoed the concerns of the average citizen regarding the shortage of jobs at a time when numerous university graduates have turned to driving minibuses to earn a living, she said she expected a low turnout. A national holiday was also declared in 2006 and that poll recorded the lowest voter turnout in years, she added.
“I think the same thing will happen, but it works for the benefit of the PPP-Civic. They have the most spending power and are therefore able to take voters to the polling stations, which is a challenge for many people,” said Springer, who is an editor.
“For example, some of the government housing schemes are across the Demerara River, so a lot of people would have to return to Georgetown to vote. Unless there is massive mobilization, there will be a low turnout of the 475 000 voters.
“Some schools are polling stations so, understandably, these would have closed, but there’s no reason workers could not have gone to work and taken breaks to cast their votes or do so after work since the polling stations close at 6 p.m.,” she explained.
The spending power of the PPP-Civic could be seen in the large billboards, the dominance of television ads and last night’s huge rally at the National Stadium.
Meantime, Springer and many other citizens are concerned that while there is infrastructural development on the surface and the economy has registered five per cent growth in the last two years, most jobs are developing in the commercial sector for waitresses and clerks and therefore not catering to the thousands of graduates.
“Also, no major investment has been made in Guyana for a long time, except in the gold industry, and that takes one into the Interior where jobs are mainly low-level and male-oriented. I have never met a female gold miner . . . hence the concern about jobs,” she added.
“While the buildings are looking good around town, there are villages where people find it difficult to get water, roads are bad and gutters are not cleared,” said young store attendant Cathy. “Some things are good, some are bad, some making it, many are not.”
She noted that many people felt that in 19 years the PPP-C could have done more and that concerns about crime and security were still dominant.
She said the campaign had so far been peaceful and hoped that calm would continue on election day and afterwards.
Older folk are also calling for change. “They (PPP-C) do a lot of good, but they do a lot of nonsense. They’ve built schools and given free house lots and soft loans and the economy has grown a little, but [were heavily criticised],” said 67-year-old Sayers, a mixed-race taximan.
“[Former President Forbes] Burnham started out good but somewhere along the line he got his wires crossed. The same with the (current) President (Bharrat Jagdeo); he started good but coming to the end he called people names, which is unbecoming of a president. I ain’t know much ’bout Ramotar but what I don’t like about him is his age. You need somebody young, vibrant, with new ideas, new class,” Sayers told the SUNDAY SUN.