The changes to the electoral structure of several Neighbourhood Democratic Councils (NDCs) and municipalities will make the process of local governance easier, according to Minister of Communities Ronald Bulkan.
Bulkan on June 8th published two orders which amended 14 Local Government Areas, removing a total of sixteen constituencies and activating nine LGAs, including the Township of Mahdia.
Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo has termed the provisions of the two orders—
Order No. 16 of 2018: the Local Democratic Organs (Neighbourhood Democratic Council) (Amended) Order 2018 and Order No. 17 of 2018: the Local Democratic Organs (Area) (Amendment) Order 2018—gerrymandering, an accusation that Bulkan has rejected.
In an invited comment, Bulkan explained to Stabroek News that the reduction in the number of constituencies in some LGAs was due to a review undertaken by his ministry to rationalise the number of councillors in NDCs and municipalities with regards to their responsibilities. He further explained that the review intends to address the lack of proportionality between population size and council size.
Noting that the municipality of Linden has a mere eight constituencies when several NDCs with much smaller populations have more constituencies and therefore more councillors, Bulkan stressed that the gazetted changes were made to create direct correlation between councillor responsibilities and population and geographical size.
An examination of the 2016 Official List of Voters shows that a single constituency in Linden, Bamia/Amelia Ward’s LGA has 4,978 registered voters, while a constituency in the NDC of No. 52/No. 74 Village has 1,219 registered voters. Members of the opposition People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) have previously identified this NDC as one of the largest in the country and criticized Bulkan for reducing its constituencies from 9 to 8.
Jagdeo had specifically argued that the reshaping of areas such as No. 52/No. 74 as a clear attempt by the governing coalition to influence results by restructuring the boundaries of LGAs.
Jagdeo has criticised this action, while noting that such major changes require a full-fledged press conference.
“Without any consultation with the NDCs, he has just unilaterally created these new bodies but what is even more insidious is that in 14 NDCs he has tampered with the constituencies. In tied areas he has either reduced or created new constituencies…they know they can’t win the local government elections. They were slaughtered the last time and will be slaughtered again but now they have resorted to gerrymandering the boundaries and to creating new NDCs favourable to the APNU+AFC to make it look like they have won more areas,” Jagdeo told reporters at his weekly press conference in late June.
The LGAs which have been restructured are those where the governing APNU+AFC either did not contest, was tied with the PPP/C for the number of seats won or lost the proportional representation vote to the PPP/C by one seat.
In the municipality of Rose Hall, where the PPP/C won the proportional representation vote by one seat in 2016, the number of constituencies has been increased from seven to eight. The number of seats have, however, been reduced in Evergreen/ Paradise, Aberdeen/Zorge-en-vlygt, Malgre Tout/Meerzoergen, La Grange/Nismes, Toevlugt/Patentia, Caledonia/Good Success, Woodlands/ Farm, Mahaicony/Abary, Zeelust/Rosignol, Blairmont/Gelberland, Ordnance Fortlands/No. 38, Adventure/ Bush Lot and No. 52/No. 74.
The listing forms the schedule attached to the Municipal and Neighbourhood Democratic Council (Participating Local Authorities) Order 2018 with the total number of seats, the number of councillors in respect of the Proportional Representation component and the number of constituencies and councillors in respect of the first-past-the-post component identified.
Meanwhile, the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) is currently working to establish the boundaries of the recently activated LGAs, its Public Relations Officer (PRO) Yolanda Ward told Stabroek News in an invited comment.
Ward stated that currently the secretariat has no set completion date but stressed that as soon as one is available it will be made public.
The commission, as of July 5th, has gazetted a revision of six of its 24 registration areas, cancelling 10 sub-divisions and creating 80 new sub-divisions to accommodate the “activation” of the nine new LGAs.