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It’s Election Day in Antigua and Barbuda - Who won? PRIME MINISTER GASTON BROWNE LED HIS ANTIGUA AND BARBUDA LABOUR PARTY (ABLP) INTO A SECOND CONSECUTIVE ELECTION VICTORY.
It wasn’t the clean sweep he was hoping for, but Prime Minister Gaston Browne yesterday led his Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP) into another term in office, winning 15 out of 17 seats in a poll that also featured a victory for his wife who contested her first election, and a defeat for the leader of the main opposition party.
The preliminary results released by the Antigua and Barbuda Electoral Commission (ABEC) showed that among those winning seats for the ABLP were Maria Bird-Browne, who contested the St John’s Rural East seat that had been held by her uncle, Sir Lester Bird before his retirement from active politics.
But leader of the United Progressive Party (UPP) Harold Lovell and his deputy, Wilmoth Daniel, were not so fortunate. They both lost their races in an election that was called more than a year earlier than constitutionally due.
In the one constituency won by the UPP – All Saints East and St. Luke’s constituency – ABLP candidate Colin James challenged the result after losing by 10 votes to Jamal Pringle. However, after a recount, Pringle was confirmed the winner.
Trevor Walker of the Barbuda People’s Movement (BPM) – which had formed an alliance with the UPP going into the elections – defeated incumbent Arthur Nibbs of the ABLP to become the representative for the sister isle.
Browne told supporters this morning that it was not time to “gloat about the victory”. Instead, he encouraged all parties to “cooperate toward the betterment of Antigua and Barbuda” and to forego “the division of politics” in order to “reunite” the nation following a swift but divisive campaign.
“Whereas we have our differences, I say to you that those differences should not result in any form of permanent division. So we must be able to forgive those who would’ve offended us. There were many offences during this campaign, but at the same time, I say to you that uniting this country is quintessential to its socioeconomic development,” he said.
“We have to bring all the people together.”
Browne declared today a public holiday.
A Legal Fight Begins Over Where Barbudans Will Vote in Upcoming Elections ANTIGUANS AND BARBUDANS WENT OUT EARLY TO VOTE. (PHOTO CREDIT: ABS TELEVISION)
Antiguans and Barbudians are voting in historic general elections today.
A record 53 candidates – from seven political parties and also including five independents – are competing for 17 seats in Parliament. It’s also the first time Barbudans will vote not on the sister isle, but on the mainland, following a decision by the Antigua and Barbuda Electoral Commission (ABEC) – which was endorsed by the court last week – that Barbuda, which was devastated by Hurricane Irma last September, could not facilitate voting.
Prime Minister Gaston Browne is confident his Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP will follow the lead of the New National Party in Grenada last week and win all the seats.
However, Harold Lovell, who is leading the main opposition United Progressive Party (UPP) into an election for the first time, is optimistic about his party taking over government.
Polls opened at 6 a.m. and will close at 6 p.m., but official results are not expected until tomorrow, according to ABEC chairman Nathaniel ‘Paddy’ James, because of the tedious system of ballot counting.
He said ABEC had made representation to Cabinet to change the laws to allow for a speedier counting of ballots, but so far it had been unsuccessful in convincing the authorities to go that route.
Currently, istead of counting being done at each polling station at the close of the polls – as is the case in most other countries in the Western Hemisphere – each box from each polling station is transported to a counting location in each constituency where they are then counted.
James says ABEC has appealed for change.
“This matter has been raised at the highest level – the Cabinet level. It is a policy decision so far, at this point in time, that things remain as [they are]….From the Electoral Commission’s standpoint, we would like to have it changed, but then again administration of elections in Antigua and Barbuda is still statutory so it means that Parliament would have to agree,” he said on ABS Television last night.
“It matters not how prudent it appears to you, members of the public, and the electoral commission, it is the Parliament of Antigua and Barbuda [that has] to make that judgement call.”
But James expressed the hope that this matter would be given consideration during the life of the next Parliament.
There are more than 51,000 people registered to vote in today’s elections.
Election Date Announced in Antigua and Candidates Have Just Three Weeks to Woo Electorate
Legal action is being taken to squash the Antigua and Barbuda Electoral Commission (ABEC) decision to move polling stations from Barbuda to Antigua for the March 21st elections, with leader of the Barbuda People’s Movement (BPM) Trevor Walker insisting that Barbudans should vote where they live.
An injunction was filed on Walker’s behalf by attorney-at-law Charlesworth Tabor yesterday.
The sister isle was devastated when the Category 5 Hurricane Maria hit last September, and residents had been evacuated to Antigua. However, most of them have returned home.
Last month, ABEC indicated that polling for the Barbuda constituency would be done in Antigua, based on “prevailing circumstances resulting from the hurricane which ravaged the island of Barbuda”, and it used Section 35 of the Representation of the People Act to support its decision. Then last week, before Prime Minister Gaston Browne announced the election date, ABEC chairman Nathaniel ‘Paddy’ James reiterated that position, saying that if voting centres were opened on the two islands it could open the door to fraud.
But Walker’s injunction seeks to prevent ABEC from going through with its plan, on the grounds that there are no special circumstances that prevent Barbudans from voting where they reside and that ABEC therefore has no basis in law to stop voting on the sister isle.
“There are no impediments at present that would prevent the Electoral Commission from conducting the ensuing general elections in Barbuda,” Walker said. “In fact, the nomination of candidates for the general election, which is a requirement of the law, will be conducted in Barbuda next week.”
He contends that ABEC’s interpretation of the legislation on which it based its decision was incorrect – a position Tabor outlined in a letter to James.
“Section 35 deals with matters that can be addressed in a constituency with respect to a polling district and polling places within a district in the said constituency. It does not address the issue of moving electors in one constituency to vote in another constituency, albeit they will be casting their vote for a representative of the House for the constituency from which they have been removed,” the attorney wrote.
Section 35 1 (c) of the Representation of the People Act states that “the polling place for any polling district shall be an area in that district, except where special circumstances make it desirable to designate an area wholly or partly outside the polling district, and shall be small enough to indicate to electors in different parts of the polling district how they will be able to reach the polling station at the polling place.”
Walker insists that Barbuda is not uninhabitable, and “it is important for the Electoral Commission to follow the law and conduct the poll within the constituency”.
Residents of Antigua and Barbuda now know exactly when they will be asked to elect a new government – and those contesting the poll will have less than a month to convince voters to give them their ‘X’.
After hinting late last week that elections would be held “in coming weeks”, Prime Minister Gaston Browne announced March 21 as the date for the polls at a rally of his Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP) on Saturday.
Parliament is due to be dissolved today and the election writ will be issued tomorrow, Browne told supporters, as he expressed confidence that the ABLP would be victorious over the other political parties and take all the seats in Parliament.
“I am giving them 21 days to give them 17-none,” he declared before giving the election date.
Browne explained that the reason he called the election a year early was to protect the EC$1.5 billion in projects that his government has earmarked.
“Our primary purpose for calling the election early is not about politics, it is about development….We can’t allow the destructive forces to stymie the progress we have made,” he said.
Browne urged candidates not to be complacent, despite the “weakness” of the main opposition United Progressive Party (UPP), and to ensure they hit the campaign trail.
The ABLP, the UPP, the new Democratic National Alliance, and the Antigua and Barbuda True Labour Party will contest the general elections.
The ABLP won 14 seats in the last election in 2014 while the UPP took the other three.
UPP leader Harold Lovell, responding to the election announcement, said the early polls were a sign of a failed ABLP government.
“The truth that all of us outside the Browne circle know is that life is harder than ever after nearly four years of this wicked government,” he said, adding that the administration had failed to deliver on its manifesto promises.
And he urged the electorate to “use this election opportunity to vote wisely, consider what you had yesterday, how much you have lost today and whether you and your children will lose or gain tomorrow”.