LGE: Its importance, origin in Guyana

Local Government Elections (LGEs) allow Guyanese to vote for local government officials within their communities, who represent their interests and improve their quality of life.

These local officials are responsible for assessing the needs of residents and ensuring development at the community level.

For context, municipalities, and Neighbourhood Democratic Councils (NDCs) have revenue-raising powers, and they receive transfers from the central government.

The local government organs are responsible for waste collection and sanitation, roads, dams and market maintenance, drainage, and irrigation, among others.

LGEs are therefore important, as they allow citizens to have a direct say in who will represent them and make decisions on their behalf at the local level.

It also gives citizens a voice in shaping the policies and priorities of their communities and ensures that local government officials are held responsible by their constituents.

How did local government originate?

Local government in Guyana had its genesis after the abolition of slavery in 1834. It emerged as a mechanism of freedom from colonialism, whereby the ex-slaves purchased the abandoned coffee and sugar estates from plantation owners.

A system of self-governance was set up through the establishment of a management committee in each communal village. This system was later adopted in the proprietary village and formed the basis for the emergence of a form of local government.

The period between 1845-1930 saw the enactment of several pieces of legislation that was geared towards improvement in the general conditions of the village councils.

In 1932, a decentralised system of administration through a District Commission was introduced and three years later in 1935, an ordinance was passed which provided improved methods of village elections.

In 1945, the Local Government Act Cap. 150. (Now Cap. 28:02) was consolidated and later, in 1969, the Municipal District Council’s Act Cap. 28:01, the Local Authority (Elections) Act Cap 28:03 and the Valuation for Rating Purposes Act Cap 28:04 were introduced.

The Ministerial Regional System in 1973 replaced the District Commissioner System of 1932, where the country was divided into six (6) administrative regions which functioned as intermediaries between the citizens and the state. Given the limitations and inadequacies of this system, there was a radical move to enhance regionalism in Guyana.

The Local Democratic Act No. 12 of 1980 was introduced, which identified the local government system as the foundation of the democratic organisation of the state. It was perceived as a means of fast-tracking development in the communities by the communities.

To achieve this development, the entire country was divided into ten (10) administration regions, which were further divided into sub-Regions, districts, communities, neighbourhoods and people’s cooperative units, each being charged with varying responsibilities.

The Local Authorities (Elections) (Amendment) Act 2009 changed the system of elections for the local authority areas, providing for Local Government Elections to be held in the now ten municipalities and seventy Neighbourhood Democratic Councils (NDC) (to use a hybrid system of Proportional Representation and First-Past-the-Post.

Fifty per cent of the number of councillors of each local authority area will be elected through the proportional representation component, and the other fifty per cent through the First-Past-the-Post or constituency component. This system provides three opportunities for voluntary groups, political parties, and individuals to contest for seats in the municipalities and NDCs.

On June 12, 2023, eligible voters across Guyana will exercise their constitutional right to cast their ballot for representatives in the various local government organs.