Elections in Guyana: To Vote or Not to Vote

By Krysta Sadhana

So, I’m not voting in this round of elections.

Why? Because I was terribly inefficient going about it.

Having lived most of what little “adult” years I’ve got on me in foreign countries, I’ve only been eligible to vote once in a national election and that was just last year. In the U.K.* A country that had nothing to do with me (okay, if you count colonial lording over-ness a relationship of sorts, then a country that had nothing to do with my personal interests).  Naturally, I voted. I did it cause I wanted to vote – anywhere! I was excited at the prospect of being part of the political process, part of history in the making (good or bad). Mostly, I did it cause the people in Charge of Stuff came right up to the door of my flat and registered me just like that.

*No, I’m not British. You’re allowed to vote if you’re from a Commonwealth country and living in the UK at the time (I know, it’s super weird but that’s the Brits for ya).

So, I was definitely interested in doing the same in the country on my own passport – surely, that would mean more. At the beginning of the year, from Switzerland, I asked my father to look into what I had to do in order to vote.  He said he would find out. We weren’t sure when I was returning then. I don’t remember how the conversations went after that. The initial excitement died away with time. I had other things to think about – the Big Move Back, for instance. Turning Old. Planning my future. I went from “let’s do this!” to “we’ll figure this out later”.

“Later”, I landed in Guyana just before registration closed. I think I had a week or two of an opening. I spent this time being as unproductive as possible. I stuck close to home, ventured into town only to follow Mom around, stood around our gorgeous yard dazed at all the green, green, greenness and that ridiculously blue sky (I dare you to try it and not be dazed yourself) and read about 20 useless novels (not an exaggeration). I kept waiting for Life in Guyana to make sense – reality wise. Waiting for some instructions (What To Do Now That You’ve Re-Migrated to One of the Strangest Countries in the World would’ve been nice) to fall from the heavens. And by the time I got back my voting excitement, registration was closed.

I try to console myself by saying it doesn’t matter anyway – elections are always a done deal. But really, that’s not the point of voting, as far as I see it. Forget the fact that voting is a privilege that many people, unfortunately, do not have and still struggle for today. For me, voting is not only an exercise of a fundamental human right, namely, to be able to take part in decision making processes that affect one’s environment, but also a demonstration of one’s commitment to the ideas of community, responsible citizenship and the common good. To vote, in my opinion, is to honour public trust.

Things suck but we’re in this together, right?

I understand that my take on voting is largely non-rationally based. It doesn’t make much sense: you are most likely not going to get what you want for the effort you make. There are certain factors that guarantee you won’t be happy with the outcome of the elections – maybe your preferred party has a minority following, maybe you hate all the parties or maybe you understand that ours is a messed up democracy that mere change of head/government will not fix. Maybe you, like so many youngsters I meet, like to think of yourself as “not political”. Maybe you find this whole voting business terribly divisive and can’t wait til elections are over and done with and we can all move on with our lives.

Actually, listing all of those reasons I’m this close to saying “Yeah, voting makes no sense!” but I’ll attempt to meet some of you on rational grounds anyway.

If you’re depressed about minority figures then that’s all the more reason to really throw yourself into it – definitely vote and then get your friends and family to vote as well. What really makes no sense is complaining about lack of numbers and then contributing to that lack. To the folks who think all politicians suck and/or the entire government systems sucks in general, I’ve got two things to say to you: First of all, unless you’re leading a secret revolution of sorts, this is the way you’ve got to do it. The system needs changing but you can’t do anything about that from the outside (again, this doesn’t apply to the folks planning a bloody take-over). What you can do is either form your own party or align yourself with a party that, for the most part, you find least despicable. You can become an active member of this party and try to influence policies (constitutional reform!). At the very least, however, you can try to get the least despicable party into power. Secondly, your holding these opinions tells me you’re part of the competent portion of the population. What does this mean? Well, you’ve got the right mix of intelligence and care for the greater good. You are the sort of person that elections were made for! Not the people who vote with their self interests or inherited loyalties first but the people who desire the best possible life for all in society and are willing to cast an objective ballot. What else does it mean? You can see the futility of it all. Sorry. That’s the burden of intelligence, I’m afraid. Drowning yourself in fatalism/nihilism/pessimism/other uncool ‘isms’ isn’t helping anyone though. I agree with you that democracy doesn’t need your particular vote to not collapse unto itself, that your vote won’t make or break the overall outcome and that sometimes voter turnout reaps terrible results. And I get that, in general, you are just plain tired of flogging the dead proverbial horse. However, what happens when all the competent people, similarly exhausted and careworn, opt out? If some people are going to go ahead and not vote on Monday, let it not be the competent community members please to goodness.

To the people who aren’t “political”, enjoy your little private islands/huts in the wilderness because I know you can’t possibly be living anywhere near other human beings seeing as how this is the only way you may do anything and not create political ramifications for others.

To the people who find voting divisive – it’s not the voting itself that is dividing people; it’s the social and political framework within which we operate that divides people. Yes, we need change. No, not voting doesn’t make that happen. To be fair, voting might not either (but it might!).

To the people who are now saying “Um, you aren’t even voting” – thanks for rubbing it in. But really, I’m quite sad that I won’t be voting. That I’ll have to wait another 5 years to participate in the decision making process. I’m also sorry that I wasn’t more invested to begin with. Whatever happens, only we are responsible for this country. I fall back on my non-rational ways and say, it is truly a privilege to be able to vote.

I sincerely hope those of you who can, do.

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4 thoughts on “Elections in Guyana: To Vote or Not to Vote

  1. i am fed up, sick and tired of flogging dead horses and pissing into the wind. but i agree that it makes sense to vote for the least despicable party, or the one that will have the least negative effect on ur personal wellbeing

  2. A well-written persuasion for the use of the vote in a democracy and a plea to the reticent among the community. I fully concur with these arguments and feel that one should exercise this right in the hope of bringing about effective changes in one’s society. I have always felt that boycotting an election is cowardly and nonsensical. So I hope this plea is heard in time to make a difference in some way.

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