December 15, 2011 

Harris At Large! 


This is a very special time of year when people of Goodwill everywhere come together to share the joy of the Holidays. However, in Guyana and Saint Lucia, citizens are preoccupied with the adjustments that have to be made as they adapt to the new realities. While I will prefer to deal with the spirit of the Holidays, I feel obliged to deliver on the promise I made last week to discuss with my readers the Guyana electoral scenario after the general elections of November 28, 2011. Guyana and Saint Lucia held elections on the same date and both results produced surprises. In the case of Guyana for the first time under the existing constitution a hung parliament emerged. 

I feel a sense of pride as I see what I fought for in 1997 and 2006 has finally been realized. I was involved in two political campaigns with the single purpose of producing a hung parliament. On the last occasion, I returned from Guyana with my left leg in a cast from my hip to my ankle. When asked by my friends what was the outcome of the elections? My response was, that I was cheated but not defeated. In 2006 the Alliance for Change (AFC) in nine months of existence, gained five (5) seats and began its march to fulfilling the dream of many to achieve electoral reform. This is now possible as the House of Parliament/National Assembly will for the first time since independence in 1966 will serve as a truly democratic institution. It began with the appointment of a Speaker. In times past it would have been an irrelevant detail, the PPP/Civic would have gone ahead and named a Speaker as was attempted, today it is a relevant issue. There must be consultation. The days ahead in Guyana will definitely be better. Democracy at last! This holiday season will be one of the best ever. President Donald Ramotar has an opportunity to fulfill the wish of the late President Cheddi Jagan to effect amendments to the constitution including the issue of electoral reform. 

The present electoral system in Guyana allows for a minority party to assume the mantle of government and to administer the affairs of the nation. The party that gets the most seats in parliament forms the government. There is no provision for a COALITION Government in Guyana. Until December 28, 2011 the party with the most votes always received in excess of fifty percent of the ballots and it was easy to cruise along with a parliamentary majority. Unfortunately, the opposition parties had no voice as their contribution was not necessary. The government introduced motions and bills, and generally had their way. 

Electoral Reform was never an issue as the ruling PPP/Civic party was quite satisfied with the constitution, especially in relation to the electoral system. I recall on one occasion when President Bharrat Jagdeo addressed Guyanese in St. Lucia, he referred to the fact that the constitution was written and passed in parliament by the PNC regime under the late President Forbes Linden Sampson Burnham, and his government saw no need to change it. Under the present constitution, electoral reform will need two thirds of the members of parliament to vote in favour of any amendment for it to become law. 

In the National Assembly 65 members are elected through a closed-list proportional representation system to serve a five (5) year term. The President and Prime Ministerial Candidate head the list of candidates for each contesting party. Twenty five (25) seats are divided between ten (10) geographical constituencies and forty (40) seats are in one, nation-wide constituency. There is a total of sixty (65) seats in parliament. The results produced 32 seats for the PPP/C, 26 seats for APNU (an alliance which includes the PNC) and 7 for the AFC. Voting for General and Regional elections is undertaken at the same time.

It is very difficult to write an article when one is emotionally involved. I hope however that my readers will be better informed about the electoral system in Guyana and I encourage you to use Google Search to further look into the electoral system that is different from all other countries in the region. Whereas all the other member states of CARICOM subscribe to FIRST PAST THE POST, Guyana has PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION. In the latter, the amount of valid votes   divided by the number of seats produces the amount of votes needed to be accorded a seat. Then the amount of votes received by each party is divided by the number of votes per seat. The party with highest amount of left over votes will be given the seat to arrive the final number of seats.

The people of Guyana in due course will achieve success in all their endeavours as they have spent many decades in preparation. The AFC is the party to watch in the years ahead. The contribution of the leadership of the party in the democratic process will be closely monitored and come 2016 elections, the AFC could be a major player in the politics of Guyana. I feel that the AFC is well prepared for its role in the future. 

Citizens everywhere must also be prepared to make the best of opportunities as presented from time to time. This is my motivational piece of the week:


There is no shortage of opportunity. Everyday you’re presented with countless opportunities to be, or do whatever you desire.

Luck is a matter of preparation meeting opportunity. Don’t miss out on an opportunity because you’re not prepared.

Your preparation is absolutely essential. To achieve success, you must have self discipline. You must increase your knowledge and develop your skills.

You’re always at the right place at the right time when you’re prepared.

© 2011 

Remember always to Keep the Faith, God is in Charge, Dream Big and expect Daily Miracles! 

Edward Harris

Freelance Journalist, Realtor, Business & PR Consultant


Websites:  St. Lucia – Agent ECREDMC

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