Guyana’s general election ends in chaos with an uncertain outcome

Guyana faces a period of uncertainty and potential chaos following a controversial declaration by the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) relating to votes cast in the last remaining electoral district to declare a result.

The legally unverified outcome, if confirmed, would mean that the ruling A Partnership for Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) Coalition would be formally declared as winners of the country’s 2 March General Election under the country’s proportional representation electoral system. However six parties, including the principal opposition party the PPP/C, have rejected the results for Region Four –  Demerara-Mahaica which includes the capital Georgetown – and have called for both the international community and Guyanese citizens to reject any attempt by the incumbent government to retain power based on the announcement.

In a related development the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) secured an injunction on 5 March prohibiting GECOM or any of its representatives from making a declaration of the total national count without full compliance with the law. 

Earlier in the day, the Returning Officer for Region Four, Clairmont Mingo, had begun the process of announcing the results for Region Four, the last of the results from polling in the ten electoral districts. Theseindicated that the PPP/C were nationally in the lead, but his attempts were drowned out by barracking from members of other opposition parties.

In an indication of concern the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and the EU’s diplomatic missions questioned the credibility of the results released. Their Ambassadors and High Commissioners urged GECOM to complete the final tabulation based on formal Statements of Poll.

“Based on our observation of today’s GECOM proceedings at their Region 4 office, and the fact that the full count was not completed, we question the credibility of the Region 4 results published by GECOM today,” they said in a joint statement following GECOM’s overdue release of results without the completion of an agreed verification. They also called on all Guyanese to remain “calm and patient,” and for all leaders “to exercise responsibility and restraint.”

The results released by GECOM point to a large enough victory for the incumbent APNU+AFC to retain the presidency and a parliamentary majority, while the opposition PPP/C has said its count showed otherwise with the declared number of voters nationally who supported the PPP/C increasing in every region bar one. PPP/C Presidential Candidate, Irfaan Ali, described GECOM’s actions as a move to “subvert democracy”. Until the Region 4 result was announced the PPP/C was leading APNU+AFC by 51,439 votes.

Guyana’s two main political parties shared a 33-32 seat split in the outgoing 65-seat National Assembly. The poll was contested by nine smaller parties. The 65 members of Guyana’s National Assembly are elected using closed list proportional representation, with voters selecting parties rather than individual candidates. The leader of the single party or coalition that emerges with the most seats becomes president. Polling took place with election monitors present from the OAS, the EU, the Commonwealth and CARICOM. 

The outcome is of particular importance as the incoming government will inherit the riches and associated problems arising out of the discovery of oil and natural gas in large quantities by ExxonMobil. The company has  already begun recovery from its finds. Its offshore concessions are widely believed likely to yield additional recoverable oil and gas in the coming months. 

Oil production is expected to grow to 750,000 bpd from 2025 causing unprecedented economic growth that will unlock the Republic’s offshore potential. It is also expected to redraw the geopolitical map of the Caribbean, open up Guyana’s undeveloped interior and new mineral and agricultural possibilities, as well as Brazil’s landlocked Roraima province when an all-weather road links it to Georgetown and upgraded port facilities.