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Guyana’s multiracial opposition coalition has won a national election, breaking the ruling Indo-Guyanese party’s 23 year-old grip on power, the election board said on Thursday, signalling a new era in the ethnically divided South American country.

The Partnership for National Unity and Alliance for Change coalition, led by former army brigadier and publisher David Granger, won 206,817 votes versus 201,457 for president Donald Ramotar’s People’s Progressive party (PPP), the authorities said after all votes were counted.

Diplomats from the UK and US said the elections were free and fair, and theGuyana elections commission said its first tally was unlikely to change on review. But Ramotar said the elections were rigged and demanded a recount, without giving any basis for his accusations.

Since gaining independence from Britain in 1966 the nation of 740,000 people has suffered tensions and occasional violence between citizens of Indian and African descent.

The PPP has ruled since 1992 and Afro-Guyanese complain they are marginalised.

But the coalition, a recent fusion between the traditional black party and a smaller third party, had campaigned to break that hegemony, cheered on by youth less hung up on ethnicity and increasingly fed up with the status quo.
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