By Latrishka Thomas
The timing of the government’s proposed investigation into voter registration in St Peter is being scrutinised by one opposition candidate.
Last week, the Cabinet voiced its intention to investigate claims from scrutineers that “an unusually high number of electors have been transferring their registration into St Peter”.
It added that “the candidate will prosecute claims and objections of those who have untruthfully and unlawfully transferred their registration to that constituency, while remaining resident in another”.
However, according to Chaneil Imhoff – the Democratic National Alliance’s (DNA) representative for St Peter – the issue is not new to the constituency, which is currently held by Member of Parliament Asot Michael.
For this reason, she said that it is strange that this investigation is coming ahead of an election where Michael will likely run against the Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP) – with which he has long been affiliated and now has an acrimonious relationship with – as an independent candidate.
Imhoff asserted that the unlawful practice of transferring voters near an election is “nothing new”.
“You talk ‘til you’re weak about it and there has not been any attention,” she said. “Nothing has been done about it. But it’s just interesting to me that now Cabinet has an issue with it, now Mr Michael is no longer on the ticket.
“It is very convenient, and anyone who has worked an election in St Peter would know that this is the usual modus operandi of the ABLP candidate over there,” Imhoff claimed.
“We have to be vigilant to ourselves and use whatever resources we have to ensure that we watch the process. This is nothing new. Having worked in St Peter for the last 20 years or so this is absolutely nothing new. This is something that happens every single election cycle.”
But in a statement released Sunday night, Michael referred to the proposed investigation as “an indictment on the independence of that which is the cornerstone of our democracy”.
He said, “It attacks the integrity of the Electoral Commission and its officers, as well as the Supervisor of Elections.”
Michael added that it was “an attack on the right to vote, designed to undermine the candidacy of the sitting representative through selective suppression of voter registration”.
Furthermore, Michael said that it is the responsibility of the Electoral Commission to launch an investigation if they deem it necessary.
The Electoral Commission declined to comment on the controversy when contacted by Observer yesterday, save to say, “We are having continuous registration. As part of voter education, we encourage qualified persons to register when they attain the age of 18.”
Michael also rubbished the claims of impropriety, saying that the National Housing project is what has caused the constituency to grow.
The MP went as far as to call on Attorney General Steadroy Benjamin to “rise to the occasion” and prevent what Michael claims is the unlawful launch of an investigation using the resources of the state for personal political gain.
Michael is no longer the ABLP’s choice to run in St Peter at the next general elections constitutionally due in early 2023.
When the ABLP unveiled its 17 candidates Michael’s name was absent and ‘replaced’ by Rawdon Turner who the party has been touting as its candidate for St Peter.
But Michael has expressed his intention to defend his seat, even independently.
Turner declined to comment on the matter.