– as US Ambassador lauds free & fair LGE 2018With the proverbial dust settling from the recent Local Government Elections, the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) has some ideas for increasing the voter participation in the process, and it will take those ideas to the Government.Among the measures GECOM will be taking to the Ministry of Communities is that it maintains year-round voter education. This is according to Chief Elections Officer Keith Lowenfield.Chief Elections Officer Keith LowenfieldWhen he made this disclosure, the CEO was speaking at a press conference and was asked how GECOM would improve voter turnout. He noted that hiccups occurred during the LGE preparation stage which should have been avoided through early voter education.“It has to be a year-round arrangement that speaks to what is required in some Local Government education arrangement that goes to (hinterland areas) and says: ‘This is what the benefits to accrue are, this is how to participate’,” he explained.“Going to the Pomeroon and speaking to the residents. So there’s a lot of work to do as far as prepping. You have to start with the education,” he declared.Out of 572,531 persons registered to vote, only 208,534 actually did so. This is a turnout of 36 per cent. When LGE were last held in 2016, the turnout was 47 per cent. GECOM has noted that the Ministry of Communities and political parties share responsibility for voter education.However, the coalition Government has defended the subject Minister, Ronald Bulkan, in this regard. At A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) press conference, Social Protection Minister Amna Ally has said that her colleague did what he could.Free and FairNotwithstanding the 36 per cent voter turnout at the Local Government Elections, outgoing United States Ambassador to Guyana, Perry Holloway, has lauded the elections as a free and fair process.Outgoing United States Ambassador to Guyana, Perry HollowayHolloway made these remarks at a reception to mark his exit from Guyana as a diplomat and his eventual retirement from the State Department. As one of several observers to the elections, Holloway had no complaints to make about what he had seen on November 12.“I went out and did some observing. It looked like a free, fair and very credible elections. No matter what you say about the turnout, I would say democracy was the big winner. Because people did have a chance to go vote, and I hope this continues,” he said.Making comparisons with Local Government in the US, Holloway noted that many politicians at the national level started out there. As such, he noted its importance not only to democracy, but also for moulding future leaders.“In the United States, everything is built upon local governments. But, quite frankly, our presidents, not always but in most cases, often come up through the local government ranks. It’s how we build our future leaders most of the time,” he explained.Besides Holloway and his team, other observers at the Local Government Elections have included the British and European Union (EU) diplomatic teams. In a recent interview with this publication, EU Ambassador to Guyana, Jernej Videti?, described the process as a smooth one.This conclusion was arrived at after he would have visited some of the polling stations across Guyana to check upon the pace at which ballots were cast. He noted that he would have stood as an observer two years ago during the previous LGE, but the method was “excellent” this time around.“We went as observers, and we had done it two years ago; so I think compared to what was [done] two years ago, it was even better prepared. We went to five local polling stations, and in all the polling stations the procedures were the same,” the Ambassador said.