Guyana’s opposition candidate was sworn in as president on Sunday, hours after being declared winner of the disputed March 2 general election in the South American nation.
Irfaan Ali, 40, of the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) was named the top vote-getter by Guyana Elections Commission chief Claudette Singh 154 days after the poll, following a recount, court battles and allegations of fraud.
Outgoing Guyana president David Granger, 74, said his coalition “respects the lawful consequences of the ‘declaration’” by the elections commission, but also said that claims of electoral fraud and other irregularities would be taken to the High Court.
Granger appealed to his supporters to be peaceful.
Ali called for national unity in the former British colony whose population is almost evenly split among ethnic lines, with descendants of Indian indentured laborers supporting the PPP and descendants of African slaves backing Granger’s coalition.
“There is only one future, and that future requires a united Guyana, that future requires a strong Guyana,” Ali said.
The election in Guyana, a country of 750,000 bordered by Brazil, Venezuela and Suriname, was being watched more closely than might ordinarily be the case because the winner would be in control of a coming oil boom.
In December last year, ExxonMobil began commercial exploitation of a huge 2016 oil discovery off the coast, and production is expected to grow from 52,000 barrels per day to 750,000 from 2025.
The declaration of Ali, a former Guyana minister of housing, as winner brings to an end five months of court cases by Granger’s Partnership for National Unity and Alliance for Change over results from a recount, after international observers said that initial results in Guyana’s most densely populated electoral district had been inflated in favor of the incumbent.
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