“Yah gah vote yah own!”- Race Voting in UGSS Elections

On Saturday, the doors closed on yet another thrilling season of UGSS campaigning, and while the University celebrates the piloted use of electronic vote count machines, with possible usage at the national level, there were other human inventions tested during that election which could very well be used at the national level- Race voting.

In what could only be described as a dark day for democracy, I present an account of what I observed on Friday last that caused me to gnaw-in-grief at whatever smidgen of faith I had in youth being able to change the current ‘zero-sum’ competition that plays out in national elections.


So there I was, queued up and ready to cast my ballot. Imagine my surprise that I was still registered as a UG student. This would definitely be the last time I would be permitted to vote as a student of the University.

Whilst standing in line, my ears drifted to unchartered territory as I overheard a young lady repeating a mantra. Like a CXC student cramming for an exam, she repeated her two choice-names aloud; again and again and again.

Of course, I immediately recognised both names and the party they were affiliated with. It hadn’t even come as a surprise that although she was confident of whom she was voting for, she had no idea of who those individuals were.

So much so, that as she stood there repeating the name of one of her choice candidates, that same candidate stood a mere two feet away from her. At this point I make no exaggeration.

Whether it were out of curiosity or simply to be Devil’s Advocate and provoke conversation, I asked her if she knew the persons that she was about to vote for. In a tone mixed with uncertainty and being unbothered, she said “No!”

I proceeded to ask her why she would place so much confidence in someone she doesn’t even know. Although she had no obligation to respond, as was her constitutional right, she did.

What happened next rocked me to my core. She turned all attention to me, smiled, looked down at her left arm and with her  right index finger she gently stroked her skin in a back-forth motion. This she did while uttering the words, “Yah gotta vote yah own!”

She then proceeded to make a case which I will not include in this blog because the specifics of the case are too known and would dredge up old bones.

Not sure whether to feel angry or remorseful, I attempted to reason with the voter, but she was relentless in her position. It seemed that we had cast aside our electoral integrity and our ability to  vote on issues, in favour of a shallow, uninformed scheme of entitlement where one group must succeed while the other suffers.

Such is the nature of the ‘Zero-Sum’ competition. And like a phoenix being reborn from the ashes, it was about to rear its ugly head into local student democracy, which will not doubt make its way to the national level.

Never would I have imagined that such a mentality existed in the minds of the youth. Then again I might be a bit too idealistic. Maybe my response wouldn’t have been so hostile but my self-control was eroded by her proclamation of race voting. I kept thinking to myself: “I might not agree with what she is saying, but I will defend to the death her right to say it.”

For a minute, part of me questioned whether there should be some litmus test for determining someone’s suitability for participation in democracy rather than the simplicity of a constitutionally guaranteed eligibility determined by the set “age of majority” at 18 years.

When one thinks of this as an isolated issue then it is easy to slip into a mindset of thinking that what happened in that line was nothing.

But we often say that “UG is the microcosm of the Guyanese society”, then my question is how does such an action reflect on the potential for race voting that has already driven a wedge into struggle movement toward nationalism or development?

Then again, in all this and more… I could be wrong.

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