Court orders Guyana government to hold elections by March

February 1, 2019 GMT

GEORGETOWN, Guyana (AP) — A court on Thursday ordered the government of the South American country of Guyana to hold general elections by March after upholding a recent no-confidence motion.

The ruling comes as Guyana prepares to become what experts believe could be Latin America’s second-biggest oil producer within the next decade.

Chief Justice Roxanne George declared the no-confidence motion legal and said elections were required unless Parliament votes to extend the life of the current government. It is unclear if that will happen. The ruling means the government would have to persuade the main opposition party to do so if the elections commission cannot get ready by March 20 or if an upcoming appeal to the ruling is not resolved by then.


The ruling comes as President David Granger has nearly two years left in his term.

Attorney General Basil Williams said he plans to appeal the decision and take it to the Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice if necessary.

The Dec. 21 motion was passed with 33 votes instead of the 34 majority votes the government contends is needed. One of the votes came from Charrandass Persaud, a legislator of the ruling coalition who has since fled to Canada. He was later expelled from Parliament and replaced. The government has officially accused him of taking a $1 million bribe and said they are following several investigative leads. Persaud on social media has denied taking a bribe and called it a “conscience vote” based on his disappointment with the coalition government.

In her ruling, George also said that lawmakers with dual citizenship like Persaud can no longer legally sit in Parliament. Several legislators hold dual citizenship, including Foreign Minister Carl Greenidge.

Some worry about the effect the ongoing political upheaval might have on the start of oil production, which is expected for late 2019 or early 2020. Initial production levels have been estimated at 120,000 barrels per day, possibly reaching up to 750,000 daily by 2025 when two other major fields begin production.