GEORGETOWN, Guyana – President Bharrat Jagdeo was sworn in to a second term Saturday, pledging to work with the opposition to bridge racial divides in Guyana.
More than 1,000 people — including diplomats and opposition lawmakers — attended the ceremony held on the lawns of Jagdeo's residence, known as State House.
"We can allow our real and perceived differences to divide us to our peril and dissipate our national energies, or we can resolve to harmonize our diversity to our national benefit, if not glory. It is a destiny we have to choose," he said. "I know we will choose harmony, respect and hope."
Jagdeo's ruling People's Progressive Party won last Monday's general elections, gaining about 55 percent of the vote. The victory meant the PPP, which is dominated by Guyanese of East Indian descent, retained control of parliament — increasing its number of seats by two to 36 — and the presidency for a fourth consecutive term.
The main opposition People's National Congress, which has its power base in the Afro-Caribbean population, won 34 percent of the vote. It lost five seats in parliament, leaving it with 22.
PNC leader Robert Corbin has called for power sharing between racial groups in the South American country of 730,000 and deplored the election results, which he said "proved to be an ethnic census."
"It is now time for us to take down the trappings of, and dispense with, all the feelings of hurt and animosity generated by the competitive political campaigns and work together to advance the goals of development and national unity," said Jagdeo, whose term lasts five years.
The upstart Alliance for Change, a party that offered itself as an alternative to racially based politics, won eight percent of the vote and five seats in parliament. An estimated 69 percent of the country's 492,000 eligible voters cast ballots, Bodhoo said.
Jagdeo, who was sworn in by the country's chief justice during an hour-long ceremony, said he planned to soon meet with lawmakers from each party to craft a cooperation agreement. He also said the government would work with the opposition and other groups to promote unity.
During the campaign, Jagdeo rejected accusations against his party including racial discrimination, 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 $500 million reduction in Guyana's foreign debt.