By Gerald V. Paul and Jasminee Sahoye
Now that a coalition of five parties has ended 23 years of rule by the People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPP / C), Guyana faces a future that has citizens and international observers wondering if unity can at last be achieved.
The coalition won by a slim majority, taking 207,200 votes to 202,694, according to the official tally.
Reports from Guyana indicate that Guyanese of all ethnic backgrounds have welcomed the newly elected coalition, A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) and Alliance for Change (AFC) and its presidential candidate after a record number of citizens cast ballots in the May 11 general and regional elections.
Those living in Guyana and outside have been sharing their elation on social media about this historical victory after the coalition – announced just about two months prior to the elections – defeated PPP / C.
There was evidence of celebrations in many parts of the country as well as in Canada and the U.S. as many said they wanted to see change even if it means “some struggles.”
The win may also signal an end to the historical race-based voting among Guyanese since the country gained independence from Britain 49 years ago.
Many Guyanese hope this new government will unite people of all ethnicity and spur the country’s economic development.
“I shall be a good president for all the people,” said David Granger, Guyana’s eighth president upon being sworn in.
Outgoing president Donald Ramotar told supporters, “Once again we have been removed from office, not through the will of our people, but by electoral manipulations. Yet we will remain steadfast in our commitment to the principles of freedom and democracy.”
Ramotar urged Granger and the APNU-AFC leadership to take responsibility for the preservation of peace and respect for “all our citizens regardless of race, colour or creed and the protection of all Guyanese irrespective of political affiliation.”
Granger responded, “We have witnessed the damage done to our beautiful country over the past 23 years. We have been mocked by the destruction of local democracy. We have had to bear the brunt of the high rate of crime including armed robberies, arson, rapes …”
He stressed his coalition is more determined than ever to refashion society and added “the Guyanese people have seized the opportunity to vote for human safety, national unity and inclusionary democracy.”
The feeling of inclusion may have already occurred for some Guyanese. For the first time, Timothy, 24, voted. “I wanted a change as the PPP government didn’t seem to do much for young people. I’m lucky that I’m a tradesman but how many people can find work?
“I have never seen Guyanese celebrate like this, not even during Mashramani,” he told The Camera in a Facebook message.
But there are fears from many who supported the PPP / C, mainly of Indian origin, that they may face hardships like those experienced during the days of the PNC.
“I’m Indo-Guyanese and I’m happy for the change, even though I would not go out and join in the celebrations, because I’m still cautious about Afro-Guyanese, who may think I’m a PPP / C and want to harm me,” Liloutie, a professional woman, told The Camera.
Ramotar insisted the electoral process was rigged, claiming several cases of irregularities could materially impact the results. GECOM, responsible for managing the vote, has reportedly agreed to do a recount.