Guyana’s opposition party has won a bitterly contested general election and sworn in a new leader, ending a prolonged political standoff that had crippled investment and heightened ethnic tensions.
The opposition candidate Mohamed Irfaan Ali was sworn in on as Guyana’s president on Sunday, shortly after the national electoral commission said he had beaten the incumbent, David Granger, by just over 15,000 votes, a margin of three percent. The governing party said it planned to challenge his victory, alleging fraud.
As president, Ali will manage billions of dollars in new oil revenues, which have transformed Guyana, an impoverished former British colony with fewer than 800,000 people, into the world’s fastest-growing economy this year, despite a slumping global oil market.
Ali’s assumption of office follows five months of political wrangling between Guyana’s two major political parties over the outcome of the March 2 vote, which exposed deep tensions between black citizens and those of South Asian descent. The power struggle has been amplified by the newfound wealth pouring in from offshore oil fields where production began in January.
Ali, leader of the opposition People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C), is a former member of parliament and housing minister. The long-awaited announcement came after chief elections officer, Keith Lowenfield, finally submitted an elections report based on the results of a 33-day national recount that was conducted by the Guyana Elections Commissions and observed by the 15-member Caribbean Community bloc, CARICOM. The report shows that the PPP/C won 33 seats in Parliament to the outgoing government’s A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) coalition’s 31.
Calling for his supporters to remain calm, Granger said his coalition will respect the elections declaration, but “will challenge the declared results lawfully, peacefully and purposefully.”