By NAN Staff Writer
News Americas, GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Mon. Aug. 3, 2020: One hundred and fifty-two days after voters in Guyana went to the polls on March 2nd, the South American CARICOM nation finally saw its election results declared Sunday and a new government sworn in.
Dr. Mohamed Irfaan Ali, a former housing and tourism minister in the Peoples Progressive Party/Civic government, was sworn in by Chancellor of the Judiciary, Justice Yonette Cumming at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre as the 10th President of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana and its first practicing Muslim head of state in South America.
Congratulations quickly began pouring in from western governments along with the Organization of American States, which had led months of international pressure on the David Granger A Partnership For National Unity/Alliance For Change, (APNU/AFC) government to respect the results of the March 2nd elections after months of legal challenges regarding the integrity of the election and even a consequential recount of all ballots.
Ali’s swearing in came after Chief Elections Officer Keith Lowenfield finally submitted the results of the March 2nd polls to the Guyana Elections Commission, (GECOM), using the recount figure.
But while OAS Secretary General, Luis Almagro, congratulated the new President of Guyana on his election, the organization said it is clear there are weaknesses in Guyana’s electoral system that must be addressed.
“Democracy in Guyana was put to the test in this process,” the OAS said. “Although it ultimately prevailed, it is clear there are weaknesses …. In the coming months we will issue our final report on the 2020 process with recommendations that can assist in addressing these weaknesses and avoiding a similar situation in the future.”
Ambassador of the United States of America, H.E. Sarah-Ann Lynch, British High Commissioner, H.E. Greg Quinn, Canadian High Commissioner, H.E. Lilian Chatterjee, and Ambassador of the European Union, H.E. Fernando Ponz-Canto, in also congratulating the new government said they “look forward to working with President Ali and his government as it confronts many immediate challenges, including the need to address the social and economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic and the development needs of Guyana’s people.”
They added that they “also look forward to seeing this government at its outset reach across political divisions to unite Guyanese of all ethnicities, races, and regions, around meaningful progress on constitutional reform and reconciliation.”
The PPP/C won 33 seats in Guyana Parliament compared to the APNU+AFC coalition’s 31.
All eyes will be on the new administration to see what immediate changes are implemented as it gears up to manage billions in newfound oil wealth. Ali in his campaign for office, had emphasized the need for transparency and adherence to globally-recognized standards of governance for Guyana’s nascent oil sector, which is expected to transform Guyana’s development.
He has also committed to establishing a Sovereign Wealth Fund protected against political interference, and to strengthen Guyana’s ability to uphold the Santiago Principles and the global requirements of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative.
Ali, 40, was born to a Muslim Indo-Guyanese family in Leonora, a village in the West Coast Demarara region of Guyana. The child of two educators and one of two sons, Ali also spent much of his formative years on the island of Leguan. He is a past student of the Leonora Nursery and Primary schools and Cornelia Ida Primary. Ali completed his secondary education at St. Stanislaus College in Georgetown, Guyana. He holds a doctorate in Urban and Regional Planning from the University of the West Indies.
In the campaign for the Presidency, Ali ran on a mainly economic platform, citing declining growth and increased joblessness under the Granger Administration and committed to creating 50,000 new jobs over five years.
He is married to Arya Ali and the couple has one child.
The former President, David Granger, for his part called for his supporters to remain calm after five months of holding out, adding that his coalition “will challenge the declared results lawfully, peacefully and purposefully.”
Meanwhile, Guyana’s new prime minister is former GDF Chief of Staff Mark Phillips while former President Bharrat Jagdeo was sworn in as vice president. Anil Nandlall was sworn in as attorney general and Gail Teixeira as Minister of Parliamentary Affairs. Other Cabinet appointments are to be made later.