Guyana president leads in re-election bid | india | Hindustan Times
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Guyana president leads in re-election bid

The Indian origin leader has a substantial lead in his re-election bid, with 34% of the votes in Monday's general elections tallied.

india Updated: Aug 30, 2006 15:16 IST

Guyana's President Bharrat Jagdeo has a substantial lead in his re-election bid, with 34 per cent of the votes in Monday's general elections tallied, the electoral authority said.

"We're very pleased with the results," Jagdeo, 43, told reporters late on Tuesday, while declining to provide details of the vote count to "avoid generating confusion."

The Guyana Electoral Commission had announced earlier that Jagdeo, of the People's Progressive Party Civic (PPPC), had won 54 per cent (68,104) of the votes, against 34 percent (42,683) by Robert Corbin, of the Peoples National Congress Reform-One Guyana (PNC).

Jagdeo can return to the presidency if the PPPC pulls in the largest share of the vote, but will need support from another party if the PPPC cannot capture more than half of the 65-seat legislature.

Corbin, 57, told reporters he planned to challenge some election results because people complained their names missing from the voting lists. Overall, however, he praised the election as one of the most peaceful since 1992.

The electoral commission said a new party, the Alliance For Change (AFC), was in third place, for the first time in the South American country.

Formed nine months ago by two disgruntled former executives of the two dominant parties, the AFC has won 10,514 votes (8.28 percent).

Jagdeo, an unabashed supporter of private sector-led development despite his Moscow training, called in his campaign for cutting of the national debt and improving health, housing and education services.

But the country's racial divide, corruption, an upsurge in gang violence and drug-related crime all figured prominently in the campaign.

At least 400 people have been killed in gang violence over the past four years, and the United States and Britain have been pressing Guyana, a British colony until 1966, over signs the island is being used to smuggle cocaine.

Security forces, meanwhile, have yet to stop a gang of nearly 30 gunmen, some of whom are believed responsible for the killing of Agriculture Minister Satyadeow Sawh earlier this year.

Race has traditionally underpinned Guyana's political divide: the East Indian community -- descendants of laborers brought from India -- backs the PPPC, while Guyanese of African origin generally support the PNC.

Jagdeo's human touch has allowed him to bridge that gap to a certain extent.

Corbin went into the Monday election with a plan to crack down on crime and offer poor Guyana youth greater opportunities with an empowerment scheme and free university education.

The AFC has been pushing for greater accountability, ending more than 40-years of race-based politics, improving the social sector and fighting crime and corruption.

"We have to do this together, we cannot continue to vote race any longer, because if we do vote race, the result is going to be the same" as in past elections, the party's presidential candidate, lawyer Raphael Trotman, 39, said before the election.