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Ruling party heads toward victory in Guyana elections

Ruling party heads toward victory in Guyana elections

President Bharrat Jagdeo, who during his campaign for re-election fended off accusations that he allowed drug trafficking to flourish in Guyana, appeared headed for victory as authorities tallied final ballots.With more than 80 percent of the vote counted from Monday's general elections, the ruling People's Progressive Party maintained a lead of 70,000 votes over the largest opposition party, chief elections officer Gocool Bodhoo said Wednesday at a brief news conference.
"We don't have all the statements (results) from the polling stations so we are not taking any risks in announcing partial (final) results," he said.
Ballots have yet to be counted in 147 polling stations _ mostly from remote areas near the country's border with Brazil _ out of a total of 1,999 voting centers. Bodhoo said elections officials were waiting for results from 100 more polling stations "before declaring a winner" _ which they expected to do Thursday.
Still, the margin appeared large enough for the party dominated by Guyanese of East Indian descent to keep the presidency for a fourth consecutive term and maintain its majority in the 65-seat parliament.
The main opposition People's National Congress, which has its power base in the Afro-Caribbean population, conceded defeat just before the announcement. Party leader Robert Corbin called for power sharing between racial groups in the country, and deplored the election results, which he said "proved to be an ethnic census."
"We must now, not tomorrow, or next month, agree to devise a new model of governance where all stakeholders can feel confident that they will be included in the process and enjoy the fruit of development," he said.
The PNC, which held 27 seats in the last parliament, appeared likely to lose some seats to the Alliance for Change, a new party that offered itself as an alternative to the racially based politics that have dominated the South American country for decades. The party was in a distant third but on track to pick up at least five seats, Bodhoo said earlier Wednesday.
Sixty-five percent of the country's 492,000 eligible voters _ or 314,000 people _ cast ballots, Bodhoo said.
Election observers from the Commonwealth Secretariat in London reported minor administrative problems at the polls but said they didn't "undermine the overall integrity and credibility" of the vote. Observers from Caribbean Community and the Organization of American States said they were satisfied with the conduct of the vote.
Jagdeo has rejected accusations against his party, which included corruption and granting timber concessions to drug traffickers that allowed them to build outposts in the interior. He claimed credit for wide infrastructure improvements and a US$500 million (euro390 million) reduction in Guyana's foreign debt.
Jagdeo, a Moscow-trained economist, has said he needs a parliamentary majority to smoothly pass important legislation, including laws affecting the integration of eastern Caribbean countries and other measures related to security and the 2007 cricket World Cup.
The U.S. Embassy has estimated narcotics traffickers earn at least US$150 million (euro117 million) annually in the country on South America's northern coast, equaling at least 20 percent of its gross domestic product.