Trip Start Jun 27, 2006
Trip End Dec 23, 2006

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Flag of Guyana  ,
Monday, August 28, 2006

On Monday August elections were held in Guyana. I was posted as an international observer with OAS for polling stations up the coast from Georgetown. It was a very interesting experience. Elections are held every 5 years and there is much political tension. The country votes on racial lines and historically there has been tension between the ethnic groups around elections. The majority of the population is Indo-guyanese, descendent from indentured workers brought by the British after slavery was abolished. Afro-guyanese make up a slightly smaller share of the population, descendents from the caribbean slave trade. there are also amerindians, chinese, and mixed with less clear political affiliations.

From what I understand, this racial polarization of politics is rooted in Guyanas short history since independence 40 something years ago. The first real elections were held in 1992 when the PPP, the Indo-guyanese party came to power. Prior to that, the elections were rigged and the country was controlled by the Afro-guyanese minorty. The current PPP administration appears to be somewhat corrupt and ineffective, but it referred often to the historical disenfranchisement of the Indo guyanese to maintain its support in this election. Anecdotally, the communities we went to were essentially self-segregated, and voter lists were either primarily Indo or Afro. The one station at which we observed the counting process, over 90% of the votes went to the PNC, the traditionally (and current) Afro-guyanese party.

I was paired with Javier Reyes, a Bolivian from the IDB. We were assigned a driver, Shaheed and given 17 polling stations to cover over the course of the day. They ranged from schools and nurseries to private shops and even people's houses. It was an exhausting day. We had to be there for the setup before the opening of the polls at 6am. And we remained at one station for the counting process which went on until 11pm. During the day we made our rounds of the assigned stations, making brief visits to ensure proper procedures were being followed and to fill out a lot of paperwork.

Since the election the city has been eerily quiet, but there has been no violence and the election process was observed to be transparent and open.

An article on the election. The OAS observer mission is mentioned.
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