Guyana's president calls national election for May 11

  • World
  • Wednesday, 21 Jan 2015

Guyana President Donald Rabindranauth Ramotar poses for a picture in Georgetown November 15, 2014. REUTERS/Girish Gupta

GEORGETOWN (Reuters) - Guyana's president on Tuesday called a national parliamentary election for May 11 after his suspension of the legislature last year outraged opposition parties in the former British colony.

"In light of the opposition's sustained refusal to engage my government in the dialogue we anticipated ... I now move towards general elections," said Donald Ramotar, who hopes to be re-named president if his party wins.

In power since 2011 but without a legislative majority, Ramotar, 64, in November took the rare constitutional move of "proroguing" parliament to avoid a no-confidence vote.

That was heavily criticized as anti-democratic in the South American nation of just 740,000 people.

Opposition parties, who accuse the government of corruption, had sought a no-confidence vote to protest $22.5 million in spending without parliamentary approval on items ranging from school stipends to an airport expansion project.

Guyana's next parliamentary vote had been scheduled for 2016. "My commitment to preserving and strengthening our democracy is unquestionable," Ramotar added in a speech.

Politics in Guyana have long been determined by race, with Ramotar's ruling People's Progressive Party, in power since 1992, dominated by descendants of Indian immigrants.

The main opposition party, A Partnership for National Unity, has greater support among the Afro-Guyanese population, though a third party, the Alliance for Change, is seeking to cut across the racial lines and also attract indigenous groups.

Guyana, which is home to both legal and illegal gold, diamond and bauxite mining, became independent from Britain in 1966.

(Writing by Andrew Cawthorne; Editing by Girish Gupta and Alan Crosby)

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