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article imageOpposition wins Guyana vote: Preliminary results

By AFP     May 14, 2015 in World

An upstart opposition alliance has won Guyana's general elections, ousting leftist President Donald Ramotar's party from power after 23 years, according to preliminary results released Thursday.

The People's Progressive Party Civic (PPPC), which has ruled the small South American country since 1992, came in more than 5,000 votes behind A Partnership for National Unity and Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) in Monday's vote, chief elections officer Keith Lowenfield said.

Several districts are carrying out a recount, but the result is not expected to change significantly, he said.

"There is no numerical change as far as numbers go," he said.

If the result is confirmed, the APNU+AFC will have a one-seat majority in the 65-member National Assembly, and its presidential candidate, retired army commander David Granger, will unseat Ramotar after four years in office.

The result "demonstrates that we have come together as Guyanese to elect a unity government that will represent the rights of all," the APNU+AFC said.

But it is unclear whether the PPPC, which has alleged fraud, will accept the result.

Ramotar called the elections to end a standoff with the opposition-controlled parliament, which he suspended in November to avoid a no-confidence vote.

He hoped to stop opposition lawmakers, who accuse him of corruption, from blocking his pet infrastructure projects, including a new international airport, a 165-megawatt hydropower plant and a high-tech specialty hospital.

But the plan backfired as the opposition teamed up against him, forging a five-party coalition that attracted voters with its anti-graft platform and its broad-based multi-racial appeal.

Guyana's 750,000 people have roots in India, Africa and the Americas and have historically voted along ethnic lines. But the APNU+AFC brought together traditionally Afro-Guyanese and Indian Guyanese parties, challenging the Indian-dominated PPPC.

While election observers have rejected claims of fraud and urged the PPPC to accept the result, the party has hinted it may seek a High Court injunction.

When asked if the party would challenge the result in court, PPPC executive member Gail Teixeira told AFP: "I can't answer that question now."

On election day soldiers were deployed to stop what officials called intimidation at some polling stations, as police appealed to both candidates' supporters to go home peacefully after voting.

The Elections Commission said just over 410,000 valid votes were cast.

Guyana, a former British colony on the northeast coast of South America, shares cultural ties with the English-speaking Caribbean.

It is the third poorest country in South America, with 43 percent of the population living in poverty.

Granger, 69, and the APNU+AFC have vowed to create jobs and fight drug crime, human trafficking, gun violence and corruption.

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