From Burnham to Hoyte
Despite concerns that the country was about to fall into a period of political instability, the transfer of power went smoothly. Vice President Desmond Hoyte became the new executive president and leader of the PNC. His initial tasks were threefold: to secure authority within the PNC and national government, to take the PNC through the December 1985 elections, and to revitalize the stagnant economy.
Hoyte's first two goals were easily accomplished. The new leader took advantage of factionalism within the PNC to quietly consolidate his authority. The December 1985 elections gave the PNC 79 percent of the vote and forty-two of the fifty-three directly elected seats. Eight of the remaining eleven seats went to the PPP, two went to the UF, and one to the WPA. Charging fraud, the opposition boycotted the December 1986 municipal elections. With no opponents, the PNC won all ninety-one seats in local government.
Revitalizing the economy proved more difficult. As a first step, Hoyte gradually moved to embrace the private sector, recognizing that state control of the economy had failed. Hoyte's administration lifted all curbs on foreign activity and ownership in 1988.
Although the Hoyte government did not completely abandon the authoritarianism of the Burnham regime, it did make certain political reforms. Hoyte abolished overseas voting and the provisions for widespread proxy and postal voting. Independent newspapers were given greater freedom, and political harassment abated considerably.
In September 1988, Hoyte visited the United States and became the first Guyanese head of state to meet with his United States counterpart. By October 1988, Hoyte felt strong enough to make public his break with the policies of the Burnham administration. In a nationally televised address on October 11, he focused Guyana's economic and foreign policies on the West, linking Guyana's future economic development to regional economies and noting that the strengthening of Guyana's relations with the United States was ""imperative."" While these objectives were in contrast to the policies of the past two decades, it was unclear what the long-term political and economic results would be.
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