THE peaceful transition of political power in Guyana on Sunday, after fierce bickering over the results of regional and general elections held on March 2, is a feather in the cap of the Guyanese people and a demonstration of that country’s commitment to respect for democracy.
While we acknowledge that the dispute is not over, given the indication from the previous ruling coalition, A Partnership for National Unity +Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC)), that it will file election petitions challenging the results, the fact is that the country simply needed to settle down to avoid the possibility of violent conflict had the matter been left hanging for much longer.
As it now stands, the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) won the most seats in the 65-member Parliament — the APNU+AFC got 31 seats, and the other political parties– one seat, under Guyana’s proportional representation electoral system.
On Sunday, Dr. Irfaan Ali was sworn in as the country’s ninth president, and was congratulated by the Caribbean Community (CARICOM); Commonwealth Secretary-General, Patricia Scotland; Acting Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Western Affairs at the US State Department, Michael Kozak; and the Organisation of American States (OAS)Secretary-General, Luis Almagro.
We note with interest that the Alliance for Change (AFC), the second largest party in the former coalition Government, said that while it was satisfied with the “peaceful transition” of Government, it was nonetheless “disappointed” with the decision by the Guyana Elections Commission to disregard what the party described as the “obvious and countless discrepancies and irregularities” in the electoral process.
The AFC, we believe, has displayed maturity in this matter, stating that the peaceful transition is a demonstration that civility and democracy are alive and well.
It will be to the country’s benefit that the election petitions are dealt with and settled quickly, and in a manner that will restore public confidence.
As well, Guyana will need to properly and adequately address the issues of race that have fuelled ethnic tensions, and influenced politics for years.
That, we admit, won’t be easy, and will not change overnight. However, if the Guyanese people are to truly benefit from the discovery of oil off the country’s Atlantic coast, there needs to be political and social stability there.
The oil, we are told, is estimated at more than eight billion barrels. It has the potential, according to the World Bank, to push economic growth in Guyana to an estimated 51.7 per cent this year, 8.7 per cent next year, and 2.6 per cent in 2022.
This is coming on the back of a 4.7 per cent expansion of the economy in 2019, with anticipated oil revenues spurring expansion in non-traded sectors.
Of course, falling oil prices and the COVID-19 pandemic could have a negative effect on that projection. Additionally, the World Bank pointed out that weak public service delivery and monitoring systems can constrain the development of policies to reduce poverty and protect the vulnerable.
Dealing with the social, political, and economic challenges at the same time will prove quite a task for the Guyanese Government and people. However, it needs to be done, as the country truly deserves to realise its full potential. (Reprinted from the Jamaica Observer)