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GUYANA IN TURMOIL

International 09 Mar, 2020 Follow News

GUYANA IN TURMOIL

A court in Guyana on Sunday upheld an injunction preventing the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) from declaring a winner from the country’s controversial and delayed general election on Monday 2nd March.

In the interim, the court will review a case which alleges extensive fraud in the elections especially the GECOM’S counting and declaration of victory to the governing coalition.

The elections commission had gone ahead and announced a victory in the crucial Region Four constituency, one of the largest, which tipped the balance in favour of the ruling coalition led by the People’s National Congress (PNC) of ex-army general David Granger, despite challenges by the opposition.

Claiming that the GECOM is independent of political interference, Mr Granger is 'sticking to his guns' that his group won the election 'free and fair'.

That is despite doubts expressed about the process by international observers from the Commonwealth, Caricom, Organisation of American States (OAS) and others.

The coming days are crucial for Guyana.

Hailed across the globe as the next ‘big thing’ in the all-important global oil sector, Guyana (pop. 800,000 appx) is now mired in a political maelstrom of its own making.

Many the world over have been willing Guyana to be an example of how to successfully manage its transition from relative poverty to regional economic powerhouse and global oil sector player.

But the country is now teetering on the edge of a slippery slope with the risk of descending into a full-blown political and constitutional crisis with the consequential social upheaval.

It lends a troubling truth to what some had feared and many had agonised over; that Guyana could be a victim of its newly found wealth.

On the verge of a remarkable economic transformation, the country now needs to rapidly and deftly navigate its way out of this dilemma to restore confidence that's slowly ebbing if its expected economic miracle does not collapse into hope-destroying political and social chaos.

This constitutional crisis has been brewing for some time and is on the verge of exploding into a messy maelstrom of political - and ethnic - retribution opening up old wounds that never really truly healed.

The general election was originally due by September last year following the collapse of a fragile coalition in December 2018.

The government led by retired army general David Granger won the 2015 polls by a slim margin with his PNC forming a coalition with smaller parties.

In the context of Guyana’s election, the profile of the parties is important.

The PNC draws its supports from Guyana’s Afro-Caribbean voters while the other main political force, the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) has its support base in the country’s Indian (Asian) community.

Guyana’s population is almost evenly split between descendants of enslaved Africans taken to the country by the British, and Indians who were enticed by the British to Guyana (then British Guiana) as indentured worked following the abolition of slavery.

Guyana's economy then was based on the sugar industry. In the ensuing rice farming, gold and bauxite mining were added.

But it's the recent discovery of massive reserves of oil which holds the promise of putting post-independence Guyana (it became independent in 1966) on a path of economic success.

It’s been a delicate balancing act between Guyana's two main ethnic groups which has suffered from serious flare-ups in the past, especially over to politics.

While there has been some degree of political accommodation across racial lines, the 2015 coalition led by the PNC was promoted as a serious attempt at multi-ethnic government.

When that collapsed the ethnic and political differences flared up again amidst a swarm of other contentious issues in which polarising racial tensions seems never to be far from the fore.

In the midst of all that Guyana found oil… or oil found Guyana... with the promises of ‘untold riches’ and the promise of an internal economic rebalancing benefit all sectors of its society.

The election campaign for the belated March 2nd poll was fuelled by oil issues.

The opposition PPP wants to renegotiate the PNC-led government’s deal with Exxon the main oil investor over concerns that Guyana was outmanoeuvred by the oil-industry savvy Exxon.

But it’s really local politics and racial divisions, albeit now played out against an oily sheen, which has led to the current impasse.

Guyana has been here before and it wasn’t pretty... and back then oil and the promise huge wealth wasn’t a factor.


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