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Post Sun Sep 16, 2018 3:40 pm

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By Leonard Gildarie(Reprinted from February 22, 2015) Note: I have been receiving several questions about the elections and my thoughts on it. We will repeat what was published just over two weeks ago)Leonard GildarieAs a journalist, it has always been at the back of my head to shy away from discussing politics in an open forum. As part of the so-called Fourth Estate, and watchdogs of happenings, it is imperative that the guardians of the gate sit on the fence, presenting the news as is and letting the public make the judgment.I have seen reporters taking to social media expressing displeasure about one issue or the other. That is okay for me, as long as there’s no taking of sides.Recently, the country’s largest Opposition bloc, A Partnership For National Unity (APNU), and the Alliance For Change (AFC), announced that they managed to reach an agreement that will see them united on one slate to contest the May 11 General and Regional Elections.The event is a significant one for many reasons, sparking both condemnation and applause from different quarters. I am questioned not only by family members, but also by friends from overseas, and lots of Guyanese. Everybody has opinions. Those questions have forced me to attempt to court a subject that critics can later argue I am clearly out of my depth. That is okay…I will attempt.I lived through the 1980s and saw the 1990s. The 2000s, I believe, have seen a new way of thinking that any political party and their campaign managers will have to analyze fully as, I am convinced, it will more than likely have a bearing how well they fare on May 11.This election, according to some of the more enlightened minds, will be a watershedImpact of social mediaone for Guyana. It comes less than two years before the end of the first term of President Donald Ramotar. Since taking power in 1992, it will be the first time that the ruling People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Government has found itself in such a peculiar situation.The APNU-AFC agreement was splashed boldly by all the dailies and commented on extensively by all and sundry.The AFC was established from persons from both the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) and the PPP/C, who were reportedly not happy with the way things were being run in those two powerhouses.It is clear from the 2011 elections, and the one before, that a few thousand persons disagreed with both the PPP and PNC/APNU. That much is obvious from the seven Parliamentary seats that the Alliance For Change (AFC) managed to pull. APNU managed to account for 26 seats and the PPP 32, leaving the Opposition with a one-seat control of the law-making National Assembly.It is now history that the 10th Parliament was a stormy one, as the Opposition used its voting powers to disapprove sections of consecutive National Budgets, leading to a no confidence motion against Government, a prorogued National Assembly, and now early elections. The Government has come in for its share of criticisms for projects, spending, and seeming inaction against “untouchables”.The Opposition, too, has been accused by Government of being anti-development after the blocking of funding and legislation for a number of key projects backed by the state.YOUTH MESSAGEThis brings us to the question: What is likely to play out now?In October 1992, Guyana voted for a new Government, the PPP/C, bringing an end to the PNC’s rule of almost 30 years. There was a feeling, and expressions from various quarters, that things were about to change for the better.There were of course debt write-offs, with the country accessing financing like never before. While sugar continued to be a bugbear,Wholesale MLB Jerseys, rice and gold as well as the housing sector surged. Value Added Tax has managed to rake in billions, leaving the treasury flush with cash. The international reserves continue to show a healthy balance.But I believe that the biggest challenge will be convincing the youths.We have a young generation from 1992 – a 22-year span – who have not really experienced Cheddi Jagan and Forbes Burnham. I believe (key word is believe) that messages therefore will have to target the youths. These are the swing votes that will put the ruling party or coalition in the driver’s seat. Issues like jobs, education, housing, opportunities and solutions to crime will be on the front burner.From experience, I happen to know that some traditional supporters will never switch.There is another major problem. The recent countrywide census, for which the final report is still to be released, has shown a startling drop in demographics for a certain section of the voting population. Is it likely to have an impact? Only time will tell.The Amerindians have been mingling more with the coastal residents, the Brazilians and international companies operating in the hinterland communities. The message will have to be clear to them. What developments are there being offered?With the strategy for Linden still to be seen, the numbers are very much up in the air.SOCIAL MEDIAAnother major challenge will of course be the role played by the media and the social networks.With a number of radio channels and TV stations under the control of the Government, sites like Facebook have been a major source of breaking news and commentary from a variety of sources.  Internet blogging sites and online news are changing the way people receive and perceive information.How the campaigns will be managed will have to harness the potential of these forums which have picked up significant followings.For a casual observer, it is difficult to judge the impact. But I can put it simply. Places like Black Bush, Anna Regina, Charity and even Port Kaituma in Region One, all have the possibilities of internet connections via mobile phones. I even know of some mining operations with internet connections in the middle of the ‘gold bush’. They are very much up-to-date about happenings on the coastland.There are accidents and other incidents happening in these far-flung communities that hit the news in a few hours, via the mobile phones.The rocky relationship between political parties and the media will also have an impact. Will they be courted? The lead-up to these elections in just over two months’ time, I am convinced, will see a different kind of campaigning. The apathy shown by voters in 2011 will likely see improvements, as well as the fact that the parties will be ‘beating the bush’ and hitting the areas where many voters stayed away.Big targets for the parties will be sugar workers, the rice industry, and even miners and loggers.The business community will have to be assured in terms of pressing issues like crime, cheaper power and maybe a significant lowering of taxes. May 11 will call on campaign managers to be innovative, maybe even borrowing a page from what prevails in a number of other developing countries. What is clear is that the traditional campaigns the older folks are accustomed to, will likely not be too successful.Again, these are my layman’s thoughts, not those of Kaieteur News, and certainly do not reflect my endorsements of any political party. The pundits can have a field day with that aspect of things and there are many other angles and arguments that can be used for or against. It will be interesting.Enjoy the week and please do continue to send those comments to [email protected] or call weekdays on 22508491.

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