Jagan declared president-elect in Guyana poll

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The Independent Online
CHEDDI JAGAN, leader of the opposition People's Progressive Party (PPP), was officially declared president-elect of Guyana last night after building up an unassailable lead in Monday's election. President Desmond Hoyte, who stood for re-election as the candidate of the People's National Congress (PNC), conceded defeat and appointed a representative to negotiate details ofthe transfer of power. Mr Jagan is expected to be sworn in today or tomorrow, thereby ending 28 years of uninterrupted rule by the PNC.

By nightfall Georgetown was alive with rumours that mobs of disgruntled PNC supporters had taken to the streets, and tension remained high even though there were few reports of violence. Earlier, Rudy Collins, head of the independent Election Commission, had announced that Mr Jagan received 129,484 votes (54 per cent) against 98,918 (41 per cent) votes for Mr Hoyte. The turnout from an electorate of about 384,000 was 65 per cent.

Jimmy Carter, the former US president, in Guyana at the head of a team of observers from his election-monitoring centre in Atlanta, confirmed that the voting had been free and fair. This was also the view of a Commonwealth Observer Group, which said that 'the organisation and conduct of polling were properly and impartially carried out'.

There was a heavy police and army presence earlier yesterday on the streets of the capital, to avert any repetition of the incidents on Monday night, when a PNC mob besieged the Election Commission headquarters to draw attention to allegations of fraud by PPP officials. Two people were killed when President Hoyte ordered police to restore order and there was some looting.

Mr Jagan has waited a long time for his moment of triumph. He founded the PPP in 1950 and has been its leader ever since, serving as chief minister twice while the country was still a British colony. He had a stormy relationship with the colonial authorities, who objected to his fiery Marxist rhetoric, and he spent six months in prison in 1954.

His worst setback came 10 years later, after serious outbreaks of racial violence in which hundreds of people were killed in clashes between PPP and PNC militants. Britain refused to grant independence to British Guiana under Mr Jagan's leadership, and in 1964 the PNC formed a coalition government with a small right-wing party after elections held under a new proportional-representation system. Two years later the PNC leader, Forbes Burnham, led the country to independence, and the party he founded in 1955 as a breakaway from the PPP has been in power ever since.

Most PNC supporters are Afro- Guyanese, who mainly live in the towns and have traditionally dominated politics, the army and the police, despite accounting for only about 31 per cent of the population. Mr Jagan, a US-trained dentist who was born on a sugar plantation in the east of the country in 1918, leads a party with its main strongholds in the rural areas, among the descendants of Indian indentured labourers brought in after the abolition of slavery in 1833.

The PPP leader has long since abandoned the 'struggle for a socialist Guyana' (the title of a book he published in 1976), and accepted President Hoyte's liberalisation of the economy, with its emphasis on selling off unprofitable state companies created during Mr Burnham's 'co-operative republic' in the 1970s. Mr Jagan has also tried to tone down the racial nature of Guyanese politics, appointing a black running-mate.