Irfaan Ali sworn in as president of Guyana

President Mohamed Irfaan Ali with supporters

GEORGETOWN – Irfaan Ali , a former minister of housing, was sworn in on Sunday as president of  Guyana, after he was declared winner of  the disputed March 2 election following a recount.

Preliminary recount data released in June showed that Ali, of the People’s Progressive Party  (PPP), had won the initial poll, and the United States last month called on President David Granger to resign.

The final result comes months after a consortium led by Exxon Mobil Corp began producing oil off Guyana’s coast, turning the country of fewer than 800,000 people into the world’s newest crude hot spot and promising to boost growth in the agriculture- and mining-dependent economy.

But the looming oil boom also raised the stakes of the country’s ethnically divided politics, with Indo-Guyanese, who primarily support the PPP, and Afro-Guyanese, who largely support Granger’s APNU-AFC coalition.

“There is only one future, and that future requires a united Guyana,” Ali said. “That future requires every Guyanese to play a part in building our country.”

The PPP has criticized the contract Granger’s government signed with Exxon – which includes two per cent royalty and a fifty per cent profit share after cost recovery – as too generous, but Ali has stopped short of pledging to renegotiate the terms of the deal.

Exxon and Granger’s allies both say the terms are comparable to other frontier oil producers.

Granger declared victory days after the March vote, but the opposition said results from the largest voting district had been inflated to put Granger ahead of Ali and the country’s top court found the district had not counted votes in accordance with electoral laws.