Forward only, Guyana

In a landmark decision on June 16, GECOM Chair, Retired Justice Claudette Singh, requested that Chief Election Officer, Keith Lowenfield, prepare a report to ascertain the results of the March 2, 2020 elections.

At the end of a gruelling 33-day vote recount, the PPP/Civic emerged with a clear lead, with the preliminary results putting the party ahead with over 230,000 votes. With this unofficial lead, the PPP/C has taken 33 seats in the Parliament, along with the presidency.

On the other hand, the APNU+AFC’s count was just over 217,000 votes, which gives it 31 seats. One seat went to a list of joining parties, the LJP, ANUG, and TNM.

The total number of votes cast nationally was 456,628, in what should go down in Guyana’s recent history as one of its most contentious and difficult general elections.

Over three and a half months following a most difficult national poll, Singh’s long-overdue request to Lowenfield now paves the way for the PPP/C, and its presidential candidate Irfaan Ali, now President-Elect, to form Guyana’s next government.

It has not been an easy journey since Guyana started taking steps forward on the road to democracy. For it to have finally arrived at the point where Singh has requested preparation of the election report has taken tremendous fortitude from all Guyanese, both at home and in the diaspora. It has also caused sleeplessness, anxiety, and uncertainty over Guyana’s future.

Remarkably, the rocky timeline leading to the 33-day vote recount took over a year and a half. It started on December 21, 2018, when in a dramatic, no-confidence vote, the ruling APNU+AFC government was blind-sided and subsequently toppled from power.

According to Guyana’s Constitution, the December 21 fall of the government should have triggered general elections three months later. However, this did not occur; instead, in the first of many backward steps, general elections was not held until more than a year later, on March 2, 2020.

In what was APNU+AFC lifting itself out of an unanticipated parliamentary downfall, its reconstitution as a soundly-thrashed political entity saw emergence of the rawest construct from straw, the party rising out of the ashes of defeat with a determination to hold on to power for as long as possible. It did so for over a year and a half.

In its flimsy standing as a straw-based, caretaker government, APNU+AFC confronted the valid, no-confidence vote, and the unequivocal direction of Guyana’s Constitution, using flawed, sophistic logic. Incredibly, this rejected government had the temerity to question what constituted a majority vote.

It was a remarkable and twisted Orwellian deployment. The humiliated, defeated APNU+AFC government sought to thwart the Constitutional requirement to go to the polls within three months following a no-confidence vote through delay, and buying time, by using the courts.

APNU+AFC’s faulty long-division in its feigned inability to perform simple arithmetic divided the nation. It then multiplied its divisive push-backs, which in the year and a half before Singh’s call for the election report, took Guyana many steps back from its forward, democratic momentum.

It was nothing less than humiliating for fledgling Guyana to come into the focus of nations as the US, the UK, Canada, the OAS, and its Caricom neighbours. The spectre of international sanctions became possible. The possibility also existed that autocratic rule, divide and conquer tactics, and rigged elections, hallmarks of the pre-1992 era, were once again a palpable reality.

Guyanese at home, and in the diaspora, are wary of returning to the hardships left behind in 1992. Guyana today is in a much better place than it was in 1992: there is a promising glow ahead for reconstruction through its supportive, enabling diaspora; the unfolding potential in new-found petroleum wealth has only recently started its promising revenue inflow.

Guyanese are weary with anxiety, and wary of its toxic, autocratic past. The path for Guyana now can only be a return to its interrupted, forward momentum.