December 21, 1997 in Nation/World

Losing Candidate Says Guyana Vote Rigged Also Claims Quick Swearing-In Was Violation Of Constitution

Bert Wilkinson Associated Press
 

The losing presidential candidate pledged Saturday to fight what he called the rigged election of an American expatriate, and said her quick swearing-in was a violation of the constitution.

Desmond Hoyte accused elections commission Chairman Doodnauth Singh of violating the constitution by declaring Janet Jagan, widow of the popular former president Cheddi Jagan, the winner while votes were still being counted, and without consulting other commission members.

“We now have an unlawful government ruling our country,” said Hoyte, who vowed to continue to dispute the results of Monday’s election.

Meanwhile, the army chief of staff and the police commissioner issued a statement Saturday denying that they had advised the quick swearing-in.

Singh had said security officials suggested Jagan be sworn in immediately and in private to avoid “a declaration of a state of emergency.”

“Neither the chief of staff nor the commissioner of police can attest to this consultation,” the statement said. “We are concerned with the reports and wish to indicate that we reject the assertion.”

Jagan was sworn in while Hoyte’s opposition People’s National Congress party was at the Supreme Court seeking an order to prevent her from taking office. The PNC and other, smaller political parties challenged the results of the general election in this country situated on the north coast of South America.

Singh declared Jagan the winner at noon Friday with 90 percent of the vote counted, saying her advantage over Hoyte was greater than the 37,000 ballots left to be counted.

After she was given the oath of office in a private ceremony three hours later, Jagan addressed supporters at a rally. When two court marshals tried to serve the order preventing her from taking office, security officers grappled with them.

When handed the order, Jagan threw the papers over her right shoulder, dismissing them in front of her supporters and the media.

“You also witnessed on television the utter contempt with which Mrs. Jagan treated the order of the court and her blatant disregard for the rule of law,” Hoyte said.

No incidents of violence were reported Saturday. On Thursday, 11 people were injured when police fired pellets and tear gas at hundreds of demonstrators claiming that the vote was rigged in Jagan’s favor.

Hoyte urged his followers to “keep the peace” and “do nothing to bring our country into disrepute.”

Jagan, 77, is a Chicago native. She became a Guyanese citizen and served 30 years in Parliament, as well as several months in jail in the 1950s with her late husband, for their allegedly pro-communist leanings.


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