ABEC ‘ready’ as PM teases on election date

Prime Minister Gaston Browne (File photo)

If the prime minister decides to call the general election now, the Antigua and Barbuda Electoral Commission (ABEC) is ready for the process.

This is what Public Relations Officer of ABEC, Elisha Graham, told OBSERVER media yesterday, hours after Prime Minister Gaston Browne again teased that “elections will come like a thief in the night.”

Graham said ABEC’S staff members, including middle managers and registration officers, were recently trained to improve in a number of areas.

She said three trainers facilitated the exercise as the commission prepares for the polls.

“We are actually ready.  All we need is the date. There are a few little things in-between that are being worked on but if he says election is going to be in March 2018, just for example, then we are ready and all the other procedures and everything that needs to be put in place will be put in place,” Graham said.

Meanwhile, Graham said the commission is working to decentralise registration into five more constituencies in the very near future. So far, decentralisation has been done for seven of the 17 areas.

This was done after the commission was threatened with legal action for conducting registration at the central office only, instead of in the individual constituencies.

The Free and Fair Elections League and the opposition parties argued that it was unlawful and further, that residents were being inconvenienced having to travel outside their communities to register.

Graham also said the commission has increased its education campaign using traditional media and social media platforms.

According to her, residents are interested in the upcoming general elections.

“Definitely persons have been coming forward. We have actually seen an increase in registration and of course we look forward to the numbers increasing as the time gets near,” she said.

The next general election is constitutionally due in 2019, since it is to be done every five years.

The prime minister yesterday said his Antigua Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP) has already chosen all 17 of its candidates to contest the election and he expressed confidence of victory. Currently the ABLP controls 14 of the 17 seats in parliament.

The main opposition United Progressive Party (UPP) has three seats in parliament but one of the MPs, Joanne Massiah, has already left the party to form her own Democratic National Alliance which plans to field a candidate in all 17 constituencies at the next election.