THE EDITOR: The two major Guyana parties (opposition PPP and ruling APNU-led coalition) are confident of victory in Monday’s election. Each of seven small parties is confident of at least a seat.
The nation looks to pollsters (like me) to say which party will win. An accurate prediction is based on scientific polling. A pollster can only offer a projection if the election would be free and fair. But all evidence points in the direction that there will be tampering with the election.
Voters have voiced their opinions and a majority say the election will be fraudulent. People are calling it a victory for either side. Some even say it would be a hung parliament. Many even say the election would be rigged to produce a landslide victory. Those well informed and who conduct ongoing opinion polling and interact with officials know it is a close outcome.
Which side has a better chance? The government has run an effective campaign talking about the future with unprecedented oil revenues and seems to have collared its base; it has all related institutions on its side. The opposition has tried to make this election about the government’s record and pointing to its superior record and promising a better vision for the future.
Ordinarily, a government that was ousted by a no-confidence motion and presided over the decline of an economy and loss of jobs would be against the wall facing the spectre of defeat. It is indisputable in speaking with supporters from both sides – the government has seen its popularity dropped steadily from 2016 to now. Yet it is doing quite well among its base.
On the flip side, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo has been able to rally back many traditional PPP supporters who abandoned the party in 2015. Jagdeo has consistently pulled large crowds.
Both campaigns have been impressive with their messages. There is a tit for tat, but no knock-out punches. One side did get an upper hand – the incumbent always has an advantage because it controls the state (and its vast resources) and has the power of the purse and has used it effectively. Every institution is on the side of the ruling party.
As polling reveals, there is hardly any last-minute vote to be obtained. People have made up their minds and a significant number won’t vote (fed up of the system). The last stump speeches would be delivered today but that won’t make much of a difference. Any floating voter not committed is likely to turn to three small parties that have a chance of a seat in their attempt to become a balancing force in parliament.
The election is supposed to be in the hands of the voters. But will it be? A turnout of mid 70 per cent, higher than the last time of 71 per cent, is expected. The government claims its poll puts it in the lead. The opposition says it did not commission a poll but that its house-to-house ground campaign puts it in the lead.
Objective polls conducted by this writer find a close fight but a victory for one party. Which side registered more voters and brings them out will have the upper hand. There is an unprecedented increase of registrants, double than the normal annual increase.
The opposition believes there are thousands of non-Guyanese on the electoral roll – thousands can’t be accounted for in their place of registration. In addition, some 200K names on the register are dead or migrated but ballots have been printed and would be available for them. It can be subjected to abuse through impersonation.
Regardless of which side wins, people will look back and ask: How did this party win? Will extra registered voters determine the winner? Will impersonating of voters aid a party? Will there be voter suppression? The elections commission (Gecom) made a last-minute decision to close some 200 polling places. Some voters cry that removal or reduction of polling stations will disenfranchise voters as there will be a lack of transport on election day.
Observers who witnessed election fraud in other countries told me that some methods of fraud include removing a few names of a party’s supporters from the voters’ list in every polling station (four or five ballots in every one of the 2,300 stations add up to some 10K); making small changes to large numbers of tallies to alter results; impersonating voters; multiple voting, rushing of polling stations and stuffing of ballot boxes; and other ways.
It is hard to predict the outcome of a tampered election.
DR VISHNU BISRAM