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Violence erupts during wait for Guyana election results

GEORGETOWN, Guyana--Following unrest in the capital after voting closed Monday, the Guyana Elections Commission GECOM and the two main political parties have appealed to residents to remain calm and refrain from violence as they await the outcome of the general election.

While there was peace during most of the day as Guyanese went out to cast their ballots Monday, there were disturbances in and around the capital in the evening and night, with the ruling People's Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) alleging that one of its candidates Kwame McCoy was physically assaulted by supporters of the opposition coalition of A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) and the Alliance for Change (AFC); fire being set to eight vehicles, including a minibus and three SUVs – one of which belonged to PPP/C candidate Joseph Hamilton and another belonging to a pastor whose home was attacked after a rumour that PPP/C supporters had set up an illegal polling station there; and reports from former president Bharrat Jagdeo that PPP/C party agents were beaten, threatened and intimidated.

Throughout the night, large groups of people gathered at the counting stations. The unrest caused GECOM to postpone the release of preliminary results.

"There's an environment that is not conducive to the safe movement of the ballot boxes at this point in time," Chairman Dr. Steve Surujbally said Monday night as he explained the delay.

He pleaded with the Guyanese electorate for peace and called on the political party leaders to address citizens and make a similar appeal.

"Let us not have a situation in which that which we have achieved is undermined and destroyed," the GECOM head said. "To see all that we are prepared for over the years in the inter-electoral period, to see all the work over the last six months and before, being threatened ... that would make anybody's blood boil," he added. "I am too old to become distraught to any great degree. However, my country is dear to me and to see what I have experienced in my youth again come to pass, especially on my watch, is not very helpful to my own equanimity."

The PPP/C and the APNU and AFC coalition also called on their supporters not to take part in any violence or other unrest.

Meantime, foreign missions which observed the election are expected to present their reports soon.

So far, the Union of South American Nations' UNASUR's observer mission has lauded GECOM for its coordination of polling day activities.

However, the mission said it was concerned about the accessibility of facilities for the elderly and handicapped and recommended that Guyana implement an "accessibility plan" to accommodate them in the next election.

Another observation was the overcrowding of some polling stations and UNASUR suggested that there be more polling stations in future. ~ Caribbean360 ~

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