Guyanese urged to accept the elections peacefully

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, August 31, 2006 – Guyanese have been urged to peacefully accept the outcome of the August 28 poll which has seen the ruling People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) being returned to office for a fourth consecutive term.

Canada, Europe, United Kingdom, and United States of America issued a joint call yesterday through their diplomatic missions in Georgetown for political leaders to accept the democratic process.

They noted some problems on elections days but these were not of the magnitude to undermine the integrity of the polls.

Their call can be regarded as a strategic and proactive move against a sense of unease pervading the capital yesterday as people feared another flair up of unrest which dogged the previous three elections.

British High Commissioner, Fraser Wheeler, reading a statement on behalf of the UK, US, Canada, and the European Union congratulated Guyanese for a peaceful election and particularly the staff of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), polling staff, and party agents for their work.

“It was a very significant achievement in Guyana’s short history as an independent country, and those involved including the domestic observers, should be very proud of the role they have played,” he stated.

“It is very important that the positive and calm atmosphere of election day is also maintained in this next phase. This means an acceptance of the democratic will of the people by all voters,” Wheeler added.

GECOM was also congratulated by the United States also and local observers.

The observers, comprising the Private Sector Commission (PSC), the Electoral Assistance Bureau (EAB) and the Guyana Bar Association (GBA) complemented Guyanese for the “maturity” and “non-violent behaviour” which allowed the elections to be conducted with minimum glitches.

The atmosphere in the capital Georgetown was a tense one. On voting day Monday stores barricaded as though a hurricane was coming. Tuesday and Wednesday the security measures remained in place as some stores opened in a mood of cautious optimism.

Security forces patrolled the capital as rumours spread that the Opposition People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) were organising street protests – something  from which its leader Robert Corbin distanced himself.

The voter turnout this year has been estimated at 58 per cent – the lowest in Guyanese polling. Director of the Caribbean Development Research Services (CADRES), Peter Wickham, suggested that the reason might be in the method of registration of voters used this year.

He said that Guyana had followed the American model on previous occasions where voters would register prior to an election and it therefore stood to reason that only the people who intended to vote would register and it resulted in a large turnout.

Guyana however went the route of other Caribbean countries this year where, when voters register for the first time, they are registered for life and so the turnout tend not to be high as there is no clear indication as to who would be exercising their rights until voting day.