Ballots were being counted from Monday’s general elections in Guyana where the party in power for 23 years is seeking a sixth consecutive term in the face of a five-party opposition coalition vowing to bring change and end racial politics.
Both the governing People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C) and the opposition coalition — consisting of the predominately Afro-Guyanese A Partnership for National Unity and the multiracial Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) — believed the long lines at polling stations would work in their favor.
Official results aren’t expected until perhaps Wednesday when all of the paper ballots have been counted.
There were several incidents that required attention including one where a man was beaten after being accused of trying to steal a ballot box. On Monday afternoon, police announced patrols with the military.
An embattled President Donald Ramotar was forced to call the elections a year early to end a standoff with the opposition-controlled parliament, which he suspended to avoid a no-confidence vote. After casting his vote, Ramotar said he believed his PPP/C would win at least 40 seats. That would give the party, which draws its base primarily from voters of Indian descent, a majority in the 65-member parliament.
“A high voter turnout would be for my benefit” he said. “I think it is good for the country that we have a high voter turnout. Greater participation is stronger for democracy.”
David Granger, the retired army general who is running for president on behalf of the opposition coalition, said a win would “restore democracy and good governance to Guyana.”
“I’ve observed tremendous enthusiasm among the Guyanese people in all 10 regions and that is going to be the decisive factor that the people of Guyana want change,” he said.
The elections are considered the most important ones since English-speaking Guyana transitioned from socialism to democracy in 1992. Issues focused on corruption, government mismanagement, and race.
While politics have long been fought along racial lines between the country’s two main political parties, many hope Guyana might be ready to leave racial politics behind with changing demographics and the emergence of the multiracial third party.