Elections Watch

Stabroek News
March 24, 2001

No GECOM employee was sent to Buxton - Boodoo reiterates

Chief Election Officer, Gocool Boodoo, yesterday again denied that any employee of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) had been sent to Buxton on Thursday to retrieve election day material from a polling station in that area.

Persons, said to have been GECOM staff members, had attempted to remove the statement of poll posted up outside the polling station for that electoral division, sparking a confrontation between villagers and the police. Some 16 persons were injured in skirmishes between the police and villagers along a six-mile stretch of the East Coast road, during Thursday and yesterday.

Boodoo also denied another report that several statements of poll were missing and that that had caused the delay in the manual computation of the results from the statements of poll, after the commission abandoned the use of a computer to do so. Boodoo said that the cause of the delay was the faintness of some of the carbon copies of the statements of poll and the time it took to verify that the figures on the duplicate and the original copies were the same.

Boodoo had promised that the final results would have been completed in time for their submission to the Elections Commission at noon on Thursday. However, it was not until Friday around 4:15 am that they were announced to a small band of reporters who had waited from 10:00 pm on Thursday for the results.

Asked about the results from the 33 boxes from Region Four, which remained to be counted when he announced the preliminary results on Wednesday, Boodoo said that these would have been made available yesterday, indicating the total number of votes from those boxes and their distribution among the parties.

Up to press time this information had not been supplied nor was the information about the total number of rejected votes, which had also been promised by Boodoo.

Though victorious PPP/C has lost ground

PNC/R support solid

The PPP/Civic victory is not all good news for the ruling party with almost 11,000 votes from 1997 siphoned off to other parties, while PNC REFORM support remained solid.

PPP/C votes in 1997 were 220,138 (54%) and this time it gained 209,031(53%). Whilst there was a decrease in voters of 4,945 - 393,709 this time and 398,654 in 1997, there was no corresponding decline for the PNC/R. In fact that party marginally increased its support from 161,719(40%) to 164,074 (42%). Throughout the regions there were no dramatic shifts in voting patterns between the two parties over 1997.

An encouraging indicator for the small parties was that they increased their number of total votes from 16,801 to 20,604, even with a smaller electorate. But The United Force (TUF) was wiped out in the hinterland by GAP/WPA. TUF won 5,903 votes in 1997 close to half coming from Region Nine. This time TUF won a national total of only 2,892 with 1,490 in Region Nine. The decision by WPA to join GAP enabled its survival as a parliamentary party. In its 1997 merger with the Guyana Labour Party as the Alliance for Guyana, the WPA won 4,803 - over half from Region Four and only 342 in Region Nine. This time the coalition won 9,500 votes of which 2,515 were cast in Region Nine and in Region Four WPA's supposed base it received only 1,399.

Despite being based in Region Three Ravi Dev could only get 623 votes, proving that a prophet is never appreciated among his own. His largest constituency was Region Six, but even then his votes compared to the PPP/C only amounted to two per cent. Nevertheless, the PPP/C probably lost one seat in Parliament because of ROAR and its vigorous personal attacks on Dev showed it had realised this threat.

Talking of prophets, C.N. Sharma doubled his votes from 1,248 in 1997 to 2,768 this time. Support for Asgar Ally's GDP fell off sharply with the party getting half (1,313) the votes it received in 1997(2,566).

A comparison of the PPP/C and the PNC/R, then and now

One interesting footnote is the large number of votes in the regional election for the Justice for All party in Region Four. In the general election JFAP scored only 1,965 but in the regional portion 3,129 persons voted for the party. It appears that supporters of the two main parties wanted some representation from the JFAP and expressed this in a way that did not jeopardise the prospects of the two main parties. What is a little unusual is that overall 2,000 more regional votes were cast than general and this could be that persons simply did not understand how to cast their vote. (William Walker)

Voting up three per cent from 1997

Anecdotal reports of heavy voting have been confirmed with a comparison of the 1997 figures showing an increase of some three per cent in the registered voters who actually went to the polls.

In 1997, the percentage of valid votes cast of the actual registered voters, according to the CARICOM Audit Report, was 86.394 per cent. Final results from Monday's voting show a rise to 89.44 per cent. All regions had increased voter turnout save for Region One, which remained the lowest at 77 per cent.

Regions Seven and Eight saw the largest jumps with eight per cent increases over 1997. Region Nine also saw an increase of six per cent, perhaps indicating that the intense campaigning by GAP/WPA and TUF for Amerindian support encouraged residents to vote.

Region Four went up by four per cent to 89 per cent. But the highest voter turnouts were in Regions Three (92%), Five(93%) and Six (91%)-- areas where the PPP/C had strong support. All three regions saw an increase of two per cent from 1997.

PPP/C (35 seats), PNC (27 seats)

set to continue Parliament domination

The main actors - the PPP/C and the PNC/R will continue their decades-old run on the stage of the National Assembly. The only changes to the script are bit parts for new minor players.

The PPP/C will lose one seat in Parliament. The PNC REFORM will gain two and the two new parties are GAP/WPA with two and ROAR with one.

The allocation of the geographic seats under the new electoral system did not create a possible situation where an extra seat was required in Parliament.

To work out the shape of the overall Parliament according to proportional representation, the Commission would have to divide the number of votes by the total seats. This yields a figure of 6057 votes per seat.

PPP/C 209031 ...... 34 seats and a remainder of 3093

PNC/R 164074 ...... 27 seats and a remainder of 535

GAP/WPA 9500 ...... 1 seat and a remainder of 3443

ROAR 3664 ...... 0 seat and a remainder of 3664

This totals 62 seats and leaves three more to be distributed

One goes to ROAR with the largest remainder of 3664; one more to GAP/WPA and one more to the PPP/C.

The final configuration of the National Assembly is therefore:

The previous Parliament had 36 seats for the PPP/C; 25 seats for PNC and 2 each for the Alliance for Guyana, which comprised the Working People's Alliance (WPA) and two other groups, and TUF.

Hard work in Region Seven reduced disenfranchisement

Activists of the PPP/Civic and the PNC REFORM, at Bartica in Region Seven (Cuyuni/Mazaruni) worked feverishly on polling day to ensure that their supporters who experienced problems were not disenfranchised.

Transportation was laid on for some persons to travel from Bartica to Supenaam to ensure that they voted at places like Cotton Field, Essequibo Coast, Wakenaam, Wineperu, Teperu, the Mazaruni Prisons and close by at Two Miles Potaro Road.

One woman who was in bed with malaria and who did not get a transfer to Bartica made the two hour-return journey to Wineperu by boat to cast her ballot.

Leon Skeete of Bartica who travelled to find his polling station on the Essequibo Coast said that he had never been there before but he was nevertheless able to vote as he had obtained his identification card at Bartica.

Winston George who lived at Bartica took a speedboat to Georgetown to vote at West Ruimveldt and returned to Bartica late in the evening, but he was happy that he had voted. However, he had to leave his identification card, which he was not happy about. He showed Stabroek News a document signed by the presiding officer, which showed that it had been retained.

Two persons who were not from Bartica, but who travelled there to vote, told Stabroek News that they decided not to vote that day because they had been told by the presiding officer at the polling station to leave their identification cards as they were not from the area. They refused.

There was also the case of a young man from Agatash who was in possession of an ID card with his name and other information correct but the photograph was not his. The first time voter, with the help of PPP/Civic activists was properly identified and he was happy to have been allowed to vote.

Party activists were vigilant throughout the day travelling from one polling station to another ferrying or transporting voters.

But credit should not only go to the party activists but to Returning Officer of Region Seven (Cuyuni/Mazaruni) Harry Persaud, Deputy Returning Officer Mary Jones and their staff at the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) office and at the polling stations at Bartica who worked round the clock to ensure the success of the polling exercise at Bartica and in other parts of Region Seven.