Mar 16, 2020 - World

Guyana's oil-soaked election heads for recount

Waiting to vote, in Leonora, Guyana. Photo: Luis Acosta/AFP via Getty Images

Guyana’s March 2 election came while the country is on the cusp of a transition from relative poverty to newfound wealth — and it was marred by severe irregularities that caused the U.S. and other countries to reject the result.

Why it matters: The coming days could determine whether the world’s next oil-rich country maintains democracy or slips back into strongman rule just as revenues start to flood in.

Driving the news: Results that showed incumbent President David Granger on course for victory were rejected by election observers, the courts and finally the international community.

  • Granger has agreed to a recount overseen by CARICOM, an organization of Caribbean states, but the process remains contentious and tensions are high in Guyana, which sits on the northern tip of South America.
  • It all comes down to one electoral region, where results with no apparent basis in reality seem to have tipped the election in Granger’s favor.
  • The response from Washington was sharp. “Democratic nations can’t ignore this blatant disregard for rule of law,” said Michael Kozak, acting assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere Affairs. “The world is watching. There is still time.”

What they’re saying: “We’re giving it one more shot. If this fails again, and they attempt to subvert the process, then it will be … even more apparent to all that the elections were rigged,” Bharrat Jagdeo, the opposition leader and a former president, told Axios in a phone interview today.

  • “The condemnation by the Western countries made all the difference,” Jagdeo says. He warns of corruption, repression and the erosion of Guyana’s young and fragile democracy if Granger clings to power.
  • “We will know we have another Venezuela next door to Venezuela should they succeed,” he continues. “People will flee this country, oil or no oil."
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