Cooling Ethnic Conflict Over a Heated Election: Guyana, 2001-2006

On 28 August 2006, Guyana held its most peaceful election in decades. In previous polls, inefficiencies in the electoral process had fueled rumors of electoral fraud by the ruling party, inflaming violent tensions between Guyana’s two main ethnic groups, the Indo-Guyanese and Afro-Guyanese. Ethnicity and party affiliation had long been linked in Guyanese politics. In the run-up to the 2006 vote, the elections commission, international donors and civil society groups worked together to thwart election-related violence. The commission rebuilt trust in the voter registry, decentralized administrative processes, improved field communications and better coordinated security plans. Recognizing the media’s role in fomenting violence, the commission established a Media Monitoring Unit and urged media outlets to cooperate to draft and abide by a new voluntary code of conduct. At the same time, civil society groups instituted a series of peace-building initiatives that included high-level dialogues and grassroots forums. These efforts helped ensure a free and fair election, with results accepted by all parties. Although violence reemerged in 2008, these reforms provided a foundation for renewed counter-efforts before the 2011 elections. This case offers insights to reformers seeking to break the cycle of electoral violence in ethnically divided societies.  

Varanya Chaubey drafted this case study with the help of Amy Mawson and Gabriel Kuris on the basis of interviews conducted in Georgetown, Guyana, in May 2009. Case published September 2011.

Associated Interview(s):  Robin Campbell,  Kwadwo Afari-Gyan, Calvin Benn, Gocool Boodoo, Remington Eastman, Rupert Roopnaraine, Steve Surujbally

election commission
voter rolls
voter registry
media monitoring
inflammatory speech
racial tension
political party
information technology
Focus Area(s)
Reducing Divisive Effects of Competition
Critical Tasks
Legal framework
Peace councils
Poll worker management
Vote counting
Voter registration
Core Challenge
Dispute resolution (compliance)
Country of Reform
Case Studies
Varanya Chaubey, Amy Mawson, Gabriel Kuris