Guyana President Donald Ramotar on Tuesday accused the opposition of fanning instability in this remote, English-speaking South American nation for declaring itself the winner of the country’s general elections while votes were still being tallied.
The opposition’s victory announcement came well before Guyana’s Election Commission released preliminary results late Tuesday showing that the five-party opposition coalition led by retired army Gen. David Granger was leading in the count. The commission refused to say what percentage of the votes had been counted, and Chief Elections Officer Keith Lowenfield stressed that logistics and weather were delaying the arrival of certified polling documents showing the final vote count in some districts.
“The nation, I hope, will have that patience to wait,” said Elections Chairman Steve Surujbally. “Let us be a disciplined society.”
Monday’s elections pitted Ramotar’s People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C) against Granger’s opposition coalition consisting of the predominately Afro-Guyanese, A Partnership for National Unity and the multiracial Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC). The PPPC/C has been in power for 23 years and is vying for a sixth consecutive term.
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On Tuesday morning, both sides had declared victory, but by late afternoon, the PPP/C had backed off the statement. At a press conference, Ramotar chastised the opposition for being “reckless” and having “disregard for the related consequences, which can lead to instability.”
“The PPP has its own tally,” he said. “We have shown tremendous use of restraint in this regard and continue to respect and abide by the conditions set out by GECOM.”
Granger said the opposition had done its own internal tabulation and were in a “commanding lead.”
The closely watched elections were observed by several international missions, including the Carter Center, led by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter. Carter, 90, was forced to cut his trip short after falling ill. The center, which had expressed concerns about the elections’ inciting rhetoric before the vote, in a preliminary statement on Tuesday commended the Guyanese people for their conduct and participation.
The sentiments were also echoed by the 15-member Caribbean Community, which said it hopes “that the results will be accepted and respected.”
Still, despite the smooth process, Election Day was marred by unrest. Late Monday night, residents burned eight vehicles in the community of Sophia, a former squatters’ settlement, and attacked Guyana Fire Service members responding to the incident. Residents were reacting to rumors that a man in the community was storing ballot boxes inside his home.
As Guyana Police Force and Guyana Defense Force conducted joint patrols in the community Tuesday, elsewhere in the country, people remained on edge and concerned about possible unrest. Streets were void of the usual congestion, and some businesses remained closed.
Public schools were open, but attendance was low.