Guyana is a republic, divided into administrative regions, with an executive President and parliamentary legislature. The 1980 constitution, amended in 2001, provides for an executive presidency and a unicameral legislature, the National Assembly, with 65 members directly elected by proportional representation: 40 at a national level and 25 at a regional level. The normal life of parliament is five years.
The leader of the majority party in the Assembly is President for the duration of the Assembly. The President appoints the Prime Minister and cabinet (which may include those from outside the Assembly), which is responsible to parliament.
In the general election of March 2001, the first to be held under a new electoral system, the ruling People’s Progressive Party (PPP)–Civic coalition won 35 seats (53 per cent of the vote). Bharrat Jagdeo retained the presidency and Desmond Hoyte of the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR, 27 seats and 42 per cent) continued to lead the opposition. Voter turnout was nearly 90 per cent. Although the election result was seen by international observers to reflect the will of the people, in the weeks following the elections opposition supporters continued to mount violent demonstrations expressing doubts about the accuracy of the poll.
These only began to be allayed when in April 2001 Jagdeo and Hoyte initiated a dialogue among parliamentarians and civil society on constitutional and electoral reform. However, this dialogue broke down in March 2002 over differences between PPP–Civic and PNCR on implementation of what had been agreed. The deadlock continued until late August 2002 when, at the government’s request, the Commonwealth Secretary-General appointed a special envoy, former Governor-General of New Zealand Sir Paul Reeves, to facilitate resumption of the dialogue between the opposing parties. During 2003 constructive dialogue proceeded between Jagdeo and the new opposition leader, Robert Corbin, political tension eased, and opposition members returned to parliament. During 2004, the constructive dialogue process wavered and the opposition’s parliamentary boycott was resumed for some time, before they returned to parliament on the basis of ‘selective engagement’.
In relatively peaceful elections in August 2006, President Jagdeo and the PPP–Civic coalition were returned to power, with 36 seats and 54.6 per cent of the votes, while the PNCR–One Guyana coalition took 22 seats and 34.0 per cent of the votes and the newly constituted Alliance for Change – which enjoys support from East Indians and Afro-Guyanese – five seats and 8.1 per cent of the votes. Commonwealth observers present reported that the results reflected the wishes of the people.
Former Prime Minister and President Janet Jagan died in March 2009.
In the November 2011 elections PPP–Civic, led by Donald Ramotar, won 32 seats, receiving 48.6 per cent of the vote, one seat short of a parliamentary majority. The new coalition led by PNCR, A Partnership for National Unity, took 26 seats (40 per cent) and the Alliance for Change seven seats (10.3 per cent). Ramotar was sworn in as President. The Commonwealth observer team present found the elections to be well managed and generally peaceful.
A coalition of APNU and AFC won the elections on 11 May 2015 by a very narrow margin. The coalition secured 50.3 per cent of the vote and 33 seats and PPP–Civic led by Donald Ramotar 49.2 per cent and 32 seats. APNU–AFC coalition leader David Granger was sworn in as President on 16 May 2015. The Commonwealth observer team present found that the elections had been conducted to a high standard and were generally peaceful.