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Guyana - Politics

Chief Minister
Cheddi Berret JaganPPP30 May 195309 Oct 1953
Cheddi Berret JaganPPP05 Sep 196112 Dec 1964
Linden Forbes Sampson BurnhamPNC-R 12 Dec 196426 May 1966
Prime Minister
Linden Forbes Sampson BurnhamPNC-R 26 May 196606 Oct 1980
Linden Forbes Sampson Burnham PNC-R 06 Oct 198006 Aug 1985
Hugh Desmond HoytePNC-R 06 Aug 198509 Oct 1992
Cheddi Berret JaganPPP09 Oct 199206 Mar 1997
Janet Rosenberg JaganPPP19 Dec 199711 Aug 1999
Bharrat JagdeoPPP 11 Aug 199903 Dec 2011
Donald RamotarPPP03 Dec 201116 May 2015
David Arthur GrangerPNC-R16 May 2015

The Cooperative Republic of Guyana has a land area of 196,850 square kilometers and a population of over 750,000, of which more than 90 percent lives along the coast. The abolition of slavery led to black settlement of urban areas and the importation of indentured servants from India who populated the rural areas to work the sugar plantations. This history is reflected in Guyana’s ethnically diverse population. The three largest groups are the Indo-Guyanese (43.5%), who have remained predominantly rural, the Afro-Guyanese (30.2%), who constitute the majority urban population, and those of mixed origin (16.7%). Amerindians (9.2%) live in the country’s interior and are divided into a number of different groups.

Race and ideology have long been the dominant political influences in Guyana. Traditionally, Guyanese who support the People's Progressive Party (PPP) are predominantly of South Asian origin or Indo-Guyanese, while those who support the People's National Congress (PNC) are mostly of African origin, or Afro-Guyanese Bitter internal divisions between the Afro-Guyanese community, which represent approximately 30 percent of the population, and the larger Indo-Guyanese community which comprises 43 percent, often turn violent.

The Republic of Guyana is an independent semipresidential parliamentary republic and member of the Commonwealth of Nations and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). The head of state is the President, a position which is elected indirectly. Prior to any electoral process, each party designates a leader who becomes president if that party wins the most seats in the National Assembly. The President appoints and supervises the Prime Minister as well as the rest of the Cabinet. The Prime Minister and the Ministers are required to be members of the National Assembly.

The Constitution of Guyana provides for a 65 seat unicameral National Assembly in which all members serve five-year terms. Twenty-five members are directly elected from the ten geographic constituencies. The remaining 40 are elected from a national list, colloquially called the ‘top-up’ list, based on the principle of proportional representation. Any party contesting seats for the National Assembly must nominate candidates in at least six geographic constituencies, or alternatively for at least 13 of the 25 national constituency seats. Parties that do not field the requisite number of candidates are not allowed to participate in the electoral process.

Guyana’s gender quota states that one-third of the candidates validly nominated must be women. Furthermore, no more than 20% of the geographic constituency lists of any party can be all-male. Parties supply Geographic Constituency Lists of candidates and a separate National Top-Up List (a candidate may appear on one of the former and also on the latter). Parties also designate a leader, who will become President if that party receives the largest number of votes.

Guyana’s electoral system operates with ten geographical constituencies, which coincide with its ten administrative regions.

In Guyana voters mark the ballot for a party, not a named candidate. The number of candidates elected, both in each constituency and from the national PR list, is determined by the votes for that particular party. As a result, parliamentarians are not directly elected to represent specific constituencies. In fact, the ballots marked by voters do not indicate the names of any candidates. Political parties retain almost complete discretion over the selection of which candidates from the list will assume office. Unlike other countries in the region, the order in which candidates are placed on party lists does not relate to their election.

Although the leader of the party that wins the most votes becomes President, the combination of Guyana’s electoral arrangements and its multi-party system allows for the possibility of a mixed government, in which the Executive does not enjoy a parliamentary majority.

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Page last modified: 24-02-2020 18:13:15 ZULU