(by Andrew Kendall)
Voters have turned out at the polls in steady numbers as Guyana moved to elect a new parliament and government to run the country over the next five years.
The last time Guyana staged national and regional elections was in 2011 when the People’s Progressive Party/Civic won with a minority government by a margin of 32- 33 seats shared by the opposition A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) and Alliance for Change (AFC).
After a no-confidence motion made against the president and the prorogation of parliament, elections were announced earlier this year for May 11 – a year and a half before they had been expected.
The 2015 elections have been touted as a watershed moment in the country’s political history with the PPP/C campaigning heavily against the newly coalesced APNU and AFC. The latter two had contested as separate parties in 2011 but formed a coalition on February 14.
From Alberttown to West Ruimveldt to Plaisance to L.B.I. Insight travelled to see what was happening at polling stations in and around the city.
In Alberttown, by 5:30 am (half an hour before the 12 hour voting process would begin)at least 70 people were lined up in front of St. Ambrose Primary school patiently waiting to mark their ballots. Gates were promptly opened at six and the voters slowly, but steadily, made their way to the booths.
F.E. Pollard and Rama Krishna in Kitty signalled the same in the early morning hours. Many family members had mobilised themselves to get up for early voting. Even the differently abled were at the ready. This exuberant elderly woman at Rama Krishna was excited to show us her inked finger. She praised the GECOM workers. “No stress, no problems. Just nice,” was how she described the process.
And at Rama Krishna many echoed her sentiments. Whether just heading in to vote, or coming out after the deed was done – the early morning voting period seemed to be family. Mothers and daughters, aunts and nieces, grandfathers and grandsons. There were the usual grumblings about the glacial pace but no voters we met seemed perturbed by this.
A man registered to vote in Plaisance had come all the way from Parika. He had an unfortunate incident of heading to the wrong station at Good Hope and claimed he was incorrectly told he was to vote there by a polling agent. That was at 6:00 am. After reaching to the front of the line and realising his name was nowhere there he had to double back to the Railway Embankment to Neroy’s Furniture Depot in Plaisance. We met him at 9:00. “I don’t even care, though. I not coming all this way and not casting my vote.”
This well manicured fingernail gave the woman who owns it some trouble at the Plaisance Health Centre.
By 9:30 am we were in Chateau Margot and the lines seemed even longer. And the voters remained exuberant, like a grandmother and granddaughter duo. When asked how the process was, Granny replied, “Not a problem. They allow me to vote quick so no long wait.”
By 10:00 am we were back in Georgetown, passed some youths hanging out on Parade Street.
“Voted yet?” We asked.
“Of course,” they responded.
We went through Georgetown, through Kingston, Queenstown, in West Ruimveldt and into South. Persons were diligently looking for their names on lists. Some stations were eerily empty, when we enquired agents confessed there had been a massive flow of early morning voting. By this time it was 11:00 am and it seemed most persons intended to vote by midday.
An APNU agent at Command Centre nearby to St Pius said by 9:00 am at least 150 perons had come out. Persons like this expatriate who flew home last week to vote. “I was not going to miss this chance to make a difference,” he commented.
Neither was this grandmother and her granddaughter.
By 12:30 polling agents in Alberttown had said in some areas more than half of the voters had cast votes with just about six hours left to vote.
APNU Presidential Candidate David Granger has thus far lauded what he called a high voter turn out, and thus far, that statement looks accurate. PPP/C leader and presidential candidate, Donald Ramotar was meanwhile admonishing all involved to accept the results of the elections.
GECOM chairman, Dr Steve Surujbally, has predicted that the results of the elections will become known by Wednesday at the latest.