Latin America & Caribbean

Guyana governing party's Donald Ramotar wins presidency

Donald Ramotar and his wife after casting their votes
Image caption Donald Ramotar has taken his party to a fifth straight victory

Electoral officials in Guyana say Donald Ramotar of the governing People's Progressive Party (PPP/C) is to be the next president.

But the party, mainly backed by Guyana's ethnic-Indians, lost its parliamentary majority for the first time in 19 years.

This could make it difficult for Mr Ramotar if opposition parties opt to work together, analysts say.

A delay in announcing Monday's poll results had heightened tensions.

The Guyana Election Commission (GECOM) said the People's Progressive Party had won 32 seats, the opposition coalition A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) 26 seats, and the Alliance for Change seven seats.

Delays and tension

Chief elections officer Gogool Boodhoo declared Mr Ramotar, 61, the winner and said he would be sworn in shortly.

Mr Ramotar has been the General Secretary of the PPP/C since 1997 and was a political adviser to outgoing President Bharrat Jagdeo.

GECOM chairman Steve Surujbally defended the integrity of the electoral commission and the results.

The commission had delayed the final announcement, which had been expected on Wednesday, saying it needed to double-check the count.

The delay had given rise to concern of a repeat of the unrest which marred previous polls.

In 2001, post-election unrest between Guyana's ethnic groups continued for weeks.

Reacting to the outcome, Mr Ramotar said he would liked a parliamentary majority but "we have to work with what we have".

The hung parliament "is the best thing to have happened to us as a nation as there are now checks to one race group dominating all the others," political analyst Christopher Ram told the Associated Press.

The PPP/C gets most of its support from the Indo-Guyanese community, while its chief challenger, APNU, is backed mainly by Afro-Guyanese voters.

Guyana has a parliamentary system, under which the majority party's candidate assumes the presidency.

Nearly half a million people were eligible to vote in the election.

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