Guyana leaders accept full recount of presidential election

March 15, 2020 GMT

GEORGETOWN, Guyana (AP) — The government and opposition have agreed to a complete recount of votes in a presidential election marred by complaints of possible fraud in Guyana, a relatively poor nation heading into a new era of oil wealth.

A team from the 15-nation Caribbean Community arrived in the South American nation early Sunday to supervise the recount for the March 2 general election.

The country’s electoral commission ruled late Friday that President David Granger had won a second five-year term. But international warnings that the vote might not be seen as valid led Granger a day later to accept a Caricom call for a full recount.

Observer groups including the Organization of American States and the Commonwealth questioned the ballot counting process and the U.S. and other western nations have hinted at possible economic sanctions and visa revocations if any president is sworn in without a valid recount.

Caricom last week sent a team of five prime ministers to try to resolve the conflict. “The president and the opposition have both committed to abide by the results of a fair and transparent recount of each and every ballot,” said Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley, the current Caricom leader who headed the delegation.

The country of fewer than 1 million people faces the prospect that oil revenues in the next decade could make it one of the wealthiest in the hemisphere.

Guyana recently sold its first million barrels to markets in Asia and southern U.S. states. It will get four more shipments this year worth about $300 million as part of production-sharing arrangements with a consortium led by ExxonMobil, along with Hess Oil of the US and Nexen of China.

Granger, a 74-year-old retired army general, leads a multiparty coalition supported mainly by descendants of Africans brought to Guyana as slaves.

The opposition People’s Progressive Party, which led the nation for 23 years until 2015, is supported mostly by Guyanese of East Indian descent brought to Guyana as indentured servants.

With political tensions running high, some stores and banks in the capital of Georgetown and coastal areas opened for only half a day, sending home their staff early. Some also put up plywood sheets and metal shutters over windows in case of trouble.

Police have not reported any street protests since a teenager was shot and killed more than a week ago in an eastern coastal village while allegedly attacking an officer with a machete.