President denies stifling Local Govt democracy
– as APNU launches LGE campaignOfficially launching its campaign, the A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) on Friday defended itself against questions about its involvement at the Local Government Elections potentially coming at the expense of independents and smaller groups.At a press conference at Congress Place, Sophia, Greater Georgetown, the question was posed as to why large parties like APNU are contesting in certain places instead of leaving it to smaller parties or individuals. But APNU Chairman David Granger was adamant that their party’s involvement does not weaken but rather strengthens democracy.“In conducting countrywide elections, you need an organisation. And that organisation strengthens democracy,” Granger said. “It doesn’t weaken democracy. And organisations are one of the principles laid down in our discussions with other parties. There must be organisation that people shouldn’t feel free to come and go.”“Because the voters must know that year after year, they’ll be able to contact theFrom left: Communities Minister Ronald Bulkan, President David Granger, Social Protection Minister Amna Ally and Minister of State Joseph Harmonpersons that they’ve elected. So we adhere to the idea of organisation, but we encourage persons who do not belong to APNU but who share our ideals to come and work with us and campaign.”Granger also pointed out that these elections combine the First Past the Post and the Proportional Representation (PR) principles. In light of this, he noted that the population is in favour of a system where the party at the local level can also represent their interests at the national level, be it Cabinet or the National Assembly.Hard workGranger also noted that individual candidates must have the capacity to go door to door and campaign actively. He noted that organisations are therefore necessary because Local Government Elections is “hard work.”“Let me assure you that APNU will do everything possible to fortify grassroots democracy by ensuring that local residents are allowed to play a greater role in managing their own neighbourhoods, villages and towns,” Granger stated.Meanwhile, APNU General Secretary Amna Ally informed the media that the party would be contesting in 76 out of 80 Local Authority Areas. Nomination Day, which will see the introduction of the party candidates, will be on September 21. But according to Ally, the wheels were already in motion in her party’s campaign.“We have begun our preparation some time ago. But we are intensifying this. As you see, we have our campaign managers here. And we are intensifying our preparations, making sure that our legal requirements are in place,” Ally explained.The head table was asked about the number of candidates from APNU’s different parties that would contest the elections. It was explained by Granger that CN Sharma of the Justice For All Party (who was present at the press conference), as well as the other smaller parties, would take part.ElectionsThe elections are slated to be contested on Monday, November 12. It is understood that approximately 62 symbols were submitted to GECOM, though one candidate subsequently withdrew.While APNU contested the election in 2016 joined at the hip with coalition partner Alliance For Change (AFC), things are different this time around. The AFC has already indicated that it will go to the LGE polls on its own.The Cummingsburg Accord the AFC signed with APNU in 2015 has a lifespan of a minimum of three years and maximum of five years, and was focused primarily on the General and Regional Elections.To this end, the AFC had proposed as part of the nine points up for negotiation with its coalition partner that an agreement on LGE be crafted. In fact, the minority coalition partner detailed some of its positions for negotiation in the LGE Accord.The AFC’s National Executive Committee (NEC), after a May 1 meeting, had allowed additional time for the two coalition partners to have a definitive written agreement in the form of a Local Government Elections Accord.