After suspending the nation’s Parliament last November to avoid a no-confidence vote, Guyana President Donald Ramotar finally made the long-awaited announcement. General and regional elections will take place on May 11, 2015.
Official representatives from the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom stationed in Guyana released a joint-statement applauding the announcement. “We are hopeful that the upcoming electoral process will allow the Guyanese people to debate the important issues that are facing the country. We are committed to working with GECOM [Guyana Electoral Commission], all political parties, and civil society to support free, fair and peaceful elections,” they stated.
Since the 1950s, when working class Guyanese came together to demand independence from Great Britain, the nation’s politics evolved along racial lines of the majority Indo- and Afro-Guyanese populations. In power since 1992, the ruling party enjoys the support of the majority of East Indians. Regardless of the hardships they face under Ramotar’s government, older generations of East Indians continue to maintain them in power.
Results of the last elections indicate that support for the ruling party is wavering. Influenced by a wide range of factors at home and abroad, younger generations change with the times. Not all of them share the same allegiance, beliefs, prejudices, and fears as their parents and grandparents.
Based on estimated population figures by age group for July 2014, available on the CIA World Factbook for Guyana, only 12.6 percent (94,327) of Guyanese are 55 years and over, compared to 37.2 percent (273,456) in the age group 25 to 54 years old. Individuals ranging from 20 to 34 years old make up 23.6 percent (174,000) of all potential voters. Since figures are not given by specific ages, it’s difficult to include the number of potential voters 18 to 19 years old.
Born between the years 1980 and 1996, voters 18 to 34 years old did not live through the racial violence of the 1960s and 1970s. Those born in 1980, the year of Walter Rodney’s assassination, would have been five years old when the former black dictator Forbes Burnham died. The majority of these young adult Guyanese have lived under the dictatorship East Indian government. They have had twenty-two years or less to evaluate the performance of the ruling party.
Today, the younger generations have the voting power to say “No” to racial politics that has served only to stifle Guyana’s social and economic progress and enrich a small group of the local power elite. Inform yourselves about the issues. Inform yourselves about the leadership and goals of the opposition parties. Be engaged. Demand accountability. Demand change.
Working together with The Other is the only way forward. Bridging that gap takes courage, openness, and acceptance. If you haven’t yet taken that first step forward, do so today.