May 16, 2015 / 10:52 PM / 5 years ago

Guyana swears in new president after multiracial bloc wins vote

GEORGETOWN (Reuters) - Former army brigadier David Granger was sworn in as Guyana’s new president on Saturday after his multiracial opposition coalition narrowly won a national election, heralding a new chapter in the ethnically-divided South American nation.

File photo of David Granger, then leader of Guyana's opposition A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) coalition, speaks during a rally in Georgetown November 14, 2014. REUTERS/Girish Gupta

Granger’s APNU+AFC coalition, a recent fusion between the traditional black party and a smaller third party, broke the ruling Indo-Guyanese PPP party’s 23 year grip on power in Monday’s election.

Thousands flocked to Georgetown’s Parliament Square to cheer on Granger, a 69-year-old Afro-Guyanese who has vowed to crack down on corruption and govern for citizens of both Indian and African descent.

“I shall be a good president for all the people of Guyana,” Granger said after taking the oath of office for his five-year term.

Indo-Guyanese politician Moses Nagamootoo, who defected from the PPP, was tapped as prime minister.

The full cabinet will be unveiled on May 26, when the former colony celebrates 49 years of independence from Britain. The coalition will have a one seat majority in the 65-seat legislature.

“I am beyond happy,” said Aseef Balmacoon, a 28-year-old marketing manager who was celebrating in Georgetown. “I, like many others, longed for a better Guyana and a country where all its peoples can come together and live as one.”

Former President Donald Ramotar, however, said he was “disappointed, hurt and aggrieved” by the outcome of the election, which was triggered by his suspension of parliament in November to avoid a no-confidence vote.

The veteran PPP politician has alleged the elections were rigged, though diplomats from the United Kingdom and the United States said they were free and fair.

Ramotar’s government was dogged by accusations of corruption and nepotism, putting a damper on Guyana’s economic growth buoyed by the gold, diamond and bauxite sectors.

The new administration plans to spearhead anti-money laundering legislation, a constitutional reform committee, and fight crime during its first 100 days in power.

Granger has a degree in history and received military training in Nigeria, Brazil and the United Kingdom. He is the founder of a security consultancy, also worked as magazine publisher, and enjoys collecting coins.

Writing by Alexandra Ulmer; Editing by Alan Crosby

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