March 8, 2020 / 9:07 PM / 3 months ago

Guyana court halts release of election results amid fraud accusations

GEORGETOWN, March 8 (Reuters) - Guyana’s top court on Sunday upheld an injunction blocking the elections commission from proclaiming a winner in this month’s presidential election, delaying the results of a vote that has been marred by accusations of fraud.

A protester was killed and demonstrators took to the streets after diplomats described credible evidence of fraud in the vote, which will decide who leads the former British colony that is at the edge of an oil boom set to transform its economy.

Chief Justice Roxane George said during a court session on Sunday that she would begin hearing the case on Tuesday to determine whether elections officials will need to resume verification of votes in an area known as Region Four.

The opposition says Region Four results were released without verifying the votes at more than half of the polling stations, and that the results were inflated to put President David Granger ahead of opposition challenger Irfaan Ali.

The injunction prevents the elections commission from declaring a winner while the court reviews the case.

The elections commission in a statement on Sunday promised to uphold its constitutional duties.

“While it is unfortunate how things have escalated, it is the intention of the Guyana Elections Commission to abide by all legal and procedural requirements,” the commission said.

Granger’s office did not respond to a request for comment on the court decision.

Prior to the decision, Granger said he could not interfere in the work of the elections commission.

The disputed vote may fuel long-simmering ethnic tensions between two groups, the country’s Afro-Guyanese and those of Indian descent, each of which has grown suspicious that the other is seeking control over revenues from oil production.

Guyana, which has a population of less than 800,000, is expected to become a major oil producer in the coming years as a consortium of companies including Exxon Mobil Corp taps into 8 billion barrels of oil and gas off its coast. (Reporting by Neil Marks; Writing by Brian Ellsworth; Editing by Daniel Wallis)

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