Guyana is in so much turmoil four months after its most important election in history, there is still no officially recognised winner. The paralysis is hitting the country’s fledgling oil industry and there are worries it might slide into a racially charged civil war.
Guyana will soon be generating billions of dollars in oil revenue. For a country of only 780,000 that means a considerable spike in wealth in the next few years.
The US has urged David Granger, the long-serving president, to “respect the results of democratic elections and step aside” to allow the opposition People’s Progressive party (PPP), and its candidate Irfaan Ali, to take over.
Ralph Gonsalves, the prime minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines and chairman of regional Caribbean bloc CARICOM, said last week a “rogue clique” in Guyana was “playing with fire, commotion, disorder and civil war”.
“A small group of persons in and out of Guyana are seeking to hijack, in plain sight, the elections, and thus the country,” he warned in remarks he emphasised were his personal views rather than those of the bloc.
Granger initially appeared to have won the March 2 election but the PPP alleged fraud and both sides agreed to a recount. The new results suggested Granger had lost. The government says the recount was flawed and is refusing to accept it. It has repeatedly gone to court to delay the official declaration of results.
The US has imposed visa restrictions on those it blames for “undermining democracy”. The Organisation of American States (OAS) says the opposition clearly won. The head of the OAS mission to Guyana, Bruce Golding, Jamaica’s former prime minister, said in May that he thought there was clear evidence of altering the results.
Opposition leader Bharrat Jagdeo told the Financial Times that war was unlikely but if the Granger government “refuses to leave office, people are not going to take it lightly”. He said some in the country were “working aggressively to divide our people, particularly along racial lines”.
Last week Granger’s campaign manager, Joseph Harmon, claimed that “dark forces are threatening to pull us apart”.