BPM controls the Council after election

Scene from Barbuda by-election

After winning yesterday’s by-election which gave them the majority of seats on the Barbuda Council, the Barbuda People’s Movement (BPM) plans to immediately focus on choosing a senator and making the Council functional.

That’s according to Calsey Beazer of the BPM who won yesterday’s by-election with 531 votes, ahead of the Antigua Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP) candidate, Ricardo Nedd, who got 303 votes, and the Go Green for Life (GGL) candidate, Primrose Thomas, who only got eight votes. There were three rejected ballots. Overall, 845 electors, out of 1,166 turned out to vote yesterday.

An elated and admittedly “tired” Beazer spoke exclusively with OBSERVER media last night. She said the turnout signals that “Barbudans are ready to stand together for one purpose and that is for the betterment of Barbuda.”

The 29-year-old said the plan is to “first set up the council and secondly we definitely need to come together as Barbudans and decide how we are going to move forward in regards to the situation with our land.”

Her latter comment refers to the current battle between some Barbudans and the central government of Antigua and Barbuda which recently moved to repeal the Barbuda Land Act which has for decades allowed Barbudans to own the land in common and not have to purchase it, while the law also barred the sale of land in Barbuda. The labour party administration, led by Prime Minister Gaston Browne, has said the law is unconstitutional.

Beazer said the BPM will continue its efforts to challenge any change of the law and she said the Council needs to get to work right away. Cheers and applause erupted for Beazer when the official numbers were given and it was clear that the people are ready to support her and her party.

“The Council needed a majority of its members present in order to make certain decisions and presently it has been very tardy, councillors have not been showing up to meetings so after this win, the BPM will have majority on the Council so we will meet,” she assured.

Since March 2017, after the biennial local government elections in Barbuda, the composition of the Council proved a challenge since the two main political parties, BPM and ABLP, could not agree on choosing a senator. That left the parties with a five-five split in terms of representatives on the Council and in order for decisions to be made, there had to have been a majority of six in agreement. The BPM had five elected council members while the ABLP had four such members but back then, the MP was Arthur Nibbs who is an ABLP member. Nibbs lost the seat to Walker on March 21 this year.

But then Walker, who was one of the BPM’s council members, had to resign due to his victory as MP, making it necessary for there to be a by-election 11 months before the next biennial council election is constitutionally due.

As MP, Walker now has an automatic seat on the Council and his colleague, Beazer, who was elected yesterday, will now sit on the council until the next elections in March 2019.

Meanwhile, last night the Returning Officer who oversaw the entire by-election process, Vernest Mack, told OBSERVER media the election went well and the turnout was better than expected.

She said many people who voted, were able to do so because they travelled from Antigua, where they have been living since Hurricane Irma destroyed most of Barbuda in September. According to her, many travelled back to Antigua yesterday by sea or by air and she too is set to return today to officially hand over all election materials to the Antigua and Barbuda Electoral Commission (ABEC).

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