Guyana Election Confirms Widespread Disenchantment with Govt

Guyana Election Confirms Widespread Disenchantment with Govt
Photo : Dr. Vishnu Bisram

The local government election results of November 12 has confirmed the findings of the opinion poll conducted by the North American Caribbean Teachers Association (NACTA) that showed widespread disenchantment with the ruling coalition (APNU+AFC) government in Guyana. The poll, conducted in late October and early November, also found that four months after the CCJ ruled that Bharrat Jagdeo could not run again for the Presidency of Guyana, the former (two) term limited President (1999-2011) remains the most popular politician in Guyana. Ironically, even APNU and AFC supporters have a favorable view of Jagdeo saying he ran the country much better than the current David Granger led administration. A large majority of the country yearns for a return of Jagdeo as President, who regrettably, cannot run for President again.

The survey found the incumbent coalition (APNU+AFC) administration is very unpopular even amongst its traditional supporters. The poll predicted that the coalition was heading for a resounding defeat and PPP a landslide victory because the PNC’s traditional supporters were not enthused about going out to vote. And the poll further found that a majority of voters do not support the CCJ’s decision reversing Guyana’s Appeal Court’s ruling that the people are supreme over the parliament and that their approval in a referendum is needed to impose Presidential term limits. A large majority of voters also oppose the Appeal Court’s ruling (of October) affirming the Chief Judge’s decision (of June) of President David Granger’s unilateral appointment of Gecom’s Chair (James Patterson). Opinion is that the country wants a more energetic, unbiased Gecom chair selected from among those recommended by the opposition as required by the constitution. The election results showed PPP winning 61% of the votes and the coalition 38%.

The findings of the poll revealed that 59% do not agree (as against 28% who do) with the Appeal Court’s ruling on President Granger’s unilateral appointment of Gecom’s Chair – the octogenarian Patterson. A constitutional agreement requires that the President chooses a nominee of the Opposition Leader as Gecom Chair. Voters also disapprove (62-30 percent) of the decision of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) ruling that parliament is sovereign over the people and that a referendum is not needed to impose Presidential term limits.

The poll also found that a large majority (69%) of the population is not pleased with (only 22% supporting) the job the government has been doing in running the country. Almost everyone says the country is going in the wrong direction. Some 68% do not approve (only 19% approve) of the management of the economy saying the quality of life has been declining over the last three years. Almost all of them say the country has been going down and that the economy is very bad and likely to get worse indicating a lack of confidence in the future. They say the coalition government does not know how to grow the economy to improve standard of living as under the administration of former President Bharrat Jagdeo. They felt former President Bharrat Jagdeo and former Finance Minister Ashni Singh did a far better job in running the country and managing (growing) the economy. Some two thirds (72%) say they are worse off today (with only 16% saying they are better off) than they were some three years ago. Almost three quarters (74%) disapprove (with only 15% approving) of government’s handling of Guysuco and terminated sugar workers. They oppose the closure of sugar estates. Almost everyone polled in Berbice, greater Enmore, West Bank, and West Coast disagrees with the downsizing (restructuring) or closure of several estates of the sugar industry. Even most APNU and AFC supporters do not support government’s policy on closing sugar estates. People feel with government closing sugar estates, the retrenched workers should receive social compensations from the government for a fair amount of time so they can find jobs.

The poll found that poor governance and misguided policies are taking a serious toll on approval ratings on the government and its leadership. According to the poll’s findings, President David Granger and Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo have relatively low approval numbers of 43% and 40% respectively as compared with Jagdeo who towers above them with 61%; even APNU and AFC supporters speak favorably of Jagdeo and the PPP saying they were better off when Jagdeo ran the country than under the present administration. The leadership of the government can increase popularity by pushing constitutional reforms to empower the people.

Asked if the government has been transparent enough in its policies and handling of revenues, 60% say no (only 28 say yes). And queried about the government’s handling of public complaints and widespread perception of corruption against the administration, 71% say that not enough is being done to crack down on corruption (including graft). A majority (59%) says corruption is more rampant now than under the preceding PPP administration.

People also express a lack confidence in the police force with almost everyone accusing elements in the police force of being very corrupt accepting bribes to do their job or make traffic tickets and other court matters disappear. Some 83% respondents of the survey say government has not been doing enough to rein in police abuse and bribery. Also, a majority (55%) says the government mishandled (with only 38% approving of) the appointment of a Police Commissioner. Many attribute the rejection of David Ramnarine (who was acting in the position) as Police Commissioner as “racially biased”. They accuse the government of wanting to appoint “its own people” in this and other critical positions to support its policies. Voters (57%) also feel the government is abusing Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) and SARU for its political agenda in targeting members and supporters of the opposition with criminal investigations. They said they expected the government to direct SOCU to file criminal charges against opposition politicians. Since the poll, the government has filed criminal charges against several PPP officials.