Homestretch for Guyana elections

Guyana’s President David A. Granger.
Associated Press / Kevin Hagen, File

This Friday, Jan. 3, Guyana’s governing coalition will launch its 2020 reelection campaign with a massive rally in the city, just about a week after President David Granger dissolved parliament ahead of the March 2020 general elections.

The move by the coalition symbolizes the official start of what critics consider as the most important election in Guyana’s history as the country the gearing up for unprecedented wealth having become the world’s newest oil producer as of Dec. 20. Whoever wins this contest is likely to control the country for decades to come as experts have predicted that the country could be earning more than $5 billion annually from revenues from oil in less than a decade.

As the clock ticks way, the 65-seat unicameral house was dissolved on Monday, Dec. 30 after meeting less than five times in 2019 because the administration of President David Granger had lost a no confidence motion to the main opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) in late December of 2018. This came after one of its own disaffected lawmakers had sided with the PPP to erase its wafer thin, one-seat parliamentary majority. He denied taking a million-dollar bribe, saying he was simply disillusioned with government’s lackluster approach to key issues including its handling of the downsizing of the country’s dying sugar sector.

That vote by disgraced lawmaker Charran Dass Persaud, not only toppled the government, effectively rendering it as a caretaker administration to organize fresh elections, but it had also paralyzed parliament as the PPP had barred its 32 MPs from attending any sittings designed to extend the life of the government.

Granger, 74, had said that he had delayed dissolving parliament to keep legislators active and available in the event of a natural or man-made emergency but with March 2 set as the date, he was forced to abide by the constitution and bring this session to an official end.

The result is that the coalition will be launching its campaign at the weekend with a massive concert involving many local and regional artists.

For its part, the PPP which ran the country from 1992 to 2015 amid widespread and credible allegations of corruption, is also planning to have its official launch sometime in early January as the two Guyanese political behemoths prepare to face off in early March, with billions of dollars of oil revenues beckoning just down the financial road.

Most analysts do not predict a seat for any of the remaining 18 fringe parties planning to contest the polls but Change Guyana, led by prominent business and hotelier Robert Badal appears to be well resourced and is attracting some interest among disaffected middle class voters. Still it could struggle to make the estimated 5000 votes needed to win a single seat.

As the two prepare for their major launch rallies, the country is also eagerly awaiting events scheduled for January 10, nomination day when contesting parties will be asked to submit their list of candidates heading to parliament.

At the level of the coalition, indications are that a number of current cabinet ministers and lawmakers will not make the cut as Granger is said to be preparing to weed out a few who have misbehaved politically, are incompetent or have integrity issues.

The year 2020 will also see life changing elections in several neighboring Caribbean countries. Suriname is set for May 25, while Trinidad will vote sometime before September. Others similarly headed include St. Vincent, the US Virgin Islands and the Turks and Caicos Islands. In the case of Suriname, President Desi Bouterse who is trying for a third consecutive five year term, was just weeks ago sentenced to 20 years in jail for his part in a 1982 mass murder of critics of his then military government. He has not been barred from running but opposition parties think they now see a crack in his armor and are preparing to move in.

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