Why you must vote

Guyana Chronicle
March 18, 2001

GUYANA'S ELECTORAL democracy, so valiantly fought for and eventually restored in 1992, requires of all eligible voters to make a special effort to trek to the polling stations tomorrow and cast their ballots for the parties of their choice.

To do so by an overwhelming response would be a healthy reminder of their resolve to ensure the further flowering of the cherished right to freely elect a government of this country.

It is a fundamental right that had been callously jeopardised for a period spanning almost a quarter of a century before being refreshingly experienced, once again, at the October 1992 elections.

The Guyana Elections Commission, comprised of an equal number of representatives from the governing and opposition parties with retired GDF Major General, Joe Singh, as the independent Chairman, has been doing a tremendous job to have all requirements in place to ensure free and fair elections tomorrow.

Problems and even some persistent hiccups in all free and fair elections occur even in the world's old democracies. In the case of Guyana, the Elections Commission has had to respond to an enormous challenge, against the backdrop of party political problems, to honour a commitment to hold elections tomorrow.

Shared Responsibility The compilation of a new electoral register has not been at all easy. And some, including a few elements in the electronic media, have not made the Commission's work any less difficult by unfounded allegations, malicious rumours and political incitement.

In the final analysis, however, success of the elections is not the sole responsibility of the Elections Commission. The contesting parties also have a major part to play in sensitising electors on securing of their ID cards, voting procedures and location of polling stations.

For their part, the voters themselves have to do their civic duty by taking the time to vote, the sooner the better. They cannot blame anyone but themselves if there happens to be a low voter turnout that result in a disappointing outcome for them.

To judge from the enthusiastic responses at meetings over the past weeks, it should not be surprising if there is a repeat of the high voter turn out of about 88.04 per cent at the December 1997 elections, and possibly higher.

We say this bearing in mind that if mammoth crowds at campaign meetings are not translated into participation in the voting process, it would have all been a colossal waste of time.

The Observers As happened in 1992 and again in 1997, tomorrow's elections will take place under the watchful and experienced eyes of overseas and local monitors, and the arrangements hold out the promise of yet another free and fair poll.

The European Union, Organisation of American States, Carter Centre, Caribbean Community, Electoral Assistance Bureau and the Guyana Trades Union Congress are all involved in the process.

The Police Force and the GDF, whose members have already voted, will be engaged in round-the-clock activities intended to prevent unlawful conduct at polling places.

Much will also depend on the competence and honesty of all officials who have been employed by the Elections Commission for the conduct of the elections. They would know that they are under intense scrutiny and that they are vital to the integrity of a democratic electoral process.

We extend our own warm welcome and best wishes to all of the foreign and local Observer Missions and to the Elections Commission, as well as to the hundreds the workers mobilised for tomorrow's rendezvous with history.