Can the DNA replace the UPP?

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The Democratic National Alliance (Dna), which was launched some 11 months ago aiming to be a third force in Antigua and Barbuda’s politics, secured less than 2 percent of the total valid votes cast in Wednesday’s general election.
The DNA’s best showing was in the St. John’s Rural East constituency, where Vincent Cornelius managed 134 votes. That was the constituency in which the Antigua Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP) had its largest margin of victory with Maria Bird-Browne tallying 2,175 and the United Progressive Party’s (UPP) Trevor Young, 975.
The DNA’s next best performer was Kelton Dalso, who secured 121 votes in St. George which was won by the ABLP’s Dean Jonas with 2,083 votes.
DNA leader Joanne Massiah, a former UPP parliamentarian who was booted from that party and became an independent MP, managed 106 votes in All Saints East and St. Luke, losing her seat to the UPP’s Jamale Pringle who secured 1,379 for his party’s lone seat.
In four of the 13 constituencies it contested, the DNA mustered less than 20 votes, scoring six in St. Philip South.
“We got a trouncing, we got a thorough beating,” was how Anthony Stuart, a DNA candidate and co-founder, described their showing to Observer media.
“I sense that persons decided that the DNA is not old enough, that the DNA is still maybe a toddler in political terms. So they said look, let’s go with an institution that would have been around for some time.”
Stuart admitted that his party, along with the UPP, were caught “flatfooted” by Prime Minister Gaston Browne’s snap election call.  This, despite Browne broadly hinting about the possibility of early elections since last June. Even DNA leader Massiah had said publicly that she heard the election was going to be in early March.
And while reports of the UPP’s demise may be premature and exaggerated, their numbers have certainly been trending in the wrong direction over the last three elections, even with their 2009 election victory. While the incumbent ABLP also scored less votes this year than they did in 2014, the drop amounted to just over 1,000 votes. The UPP for its part lost some 3,400 votes and that cannot be attributed to the DNA given the latter’s poor showing.
Stuart believes this presents a chance for his party.
“It’s obvious that there is room for the DNA, because if it is that the electorate is saying that they can’t go out to vote for the United Progressive Party and the Labour Party got such overwhelming support, then there is a void that is being created there to be filled and the DNA is that political organisation, with time on its hands now, to fill that void and be able to challenge the Antigua Barbuda Labour Party,” he stated.
According to Stuart, the electorate displayed a lack of confidence in the UPP’s leadership and the DNA “will be pushing hard to fill that void” by the next general election.
Meanwhile, PM Browne believes that the DNA never stood a realistic chance given their slate and the history of Caribbean politics where two parties have traditionally dominated.
“There’s really no space for a viable third entity, I mean this has been proven time and time again,” he told Observer media on Friday.
But, like Stuart, he too sees an opportunity for the DNA.
“I have to admit though that the decimation of the UPP may create an opportunity for them going forward because, even though their talent isn’t quite great, they have better talent than the UPP.
“Perhaps the strategy the DNA may have to pursue is one of displacing the UPP to become the second force, but beyond the second force I don’t think that there’s any space for a third party. In fact, as far as I’m concerned, it’s primarily a two-party state and that is unlikely to change anytime soon.”
Whatever the future may hold for the DNA, the party has already indicated that it intends to stick around and “hold the government’s feet to the fire” to ensure the people’s interests are served.
Time will tell.

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