EDITORIAL: A snap concert

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A free concert for no reason!?!  Yippeee!  But it seems suspicious.  Why a “One Nation Concert” now?  No fundraising.  No overarching message and no …  wait a minute!  Could this be when we hear the date for the rumoured “thief in the night” election?  Is this another sign?
Admittedly, we have little to no details on the reason behind this concert or who is funding it.  The flyer says, “The Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Honourable Gaston Browne presents …” so, are we to presume that it is coming out of the prime minister’s pocket? A gift to the people? Is it government-funded?  If so, why isn’t it a case of “The Government of Antigua and Barbuda presents”?  Or, the Festivals Commission?  And if the government is funding this grand, free concert for the people, why?  We know that resources are scarce so how could a concert get to the top of the priority list and how could we find gobs of cash to host a concert of this nature?  
Maybe all the talent, all the airfares and accommodation and all the set-up, etc. were donated.  Who knows?  Well, someone knows, they are just not saying (as yet).  
In any case, this early election talk is just not going away so we decided to look into political strategies of the past to see why a government would seek to call an early election.  The long and short of it is, snap elections are called when things are going well and/or things are going to get worse.  
The ‘things are going well’ scenario is easy to understand.  A country’s economy is booming, crime is down and the administration is respected and loved. Seizing on the euphoria and not wanting to risk a downturn or any major catastrophe, the government decides to call a snap election and catch the opposition unprepared.  
The “things are going to get worse” scenario is also easy to understand, but the timing is usually driven more by the political, social and economic environment rather than the dictate of a popular administration.
A good example of a mixture of scenarios was the 1990  provincial election in Ontario, Canada.  The ruling Liberals, led by Premier David Peterson, were riding an extremely favourable rating in the opinion polls (above the 50% mark).  They were concerned about the looming recession and wanted to ‘strike while the iron was hot’ and side-step the negative effects that would accompany a recession.  The Liberals won a huge majority in 1987 and were only three years into their term.  Few saw it as a risk.
The result was not what anyone expected.  Controversies and scandals beset the party right after the campaign began and cynicism set in with the electorate.  The Liberals went from darlings to opportunists and were swept from power by the New Democratic Party (NDP) led by Bob Rae.   
It was an upset for the ages.  It marked the first time, and only time, that the NDP had won the Ontario provincial election.  The Liberals lost 59 seats – representing the worst defeat in their history and the second-worst defeat for a governing party in Ontario.  Peterson suffered the embarrassment of losing his seat and had to resign from the leadership of the party.  The win was so unexpected that Rae had already made plans to retire from politics after the election but had to put those plans on hold.
With that in mind, we leave the analysis of a possible early election to our readers.  You should note that the prime minister has made it pellucid that he did not say that there would be early elections but only that the election would come “like a thief in the night.”  We leave that for you to decipher as well.
Be that as it may, a snap election is to the advantage of the party in power.  Knowing when an election is to be called means that the party can prepare in advance and then call the election at the most opportune time.  It is just the way our political system works and one has to wonder if it is not time for a review of that system.  
We note that the United Kingdom removed the prime minister’s ability to call an election at any time by the introduction of the Fixed-term Parliaments Act (FTPA) in 2011.  Before that, “The ability to call for the dissolution of Parliament used to be a Royal Prerogative power that was exercised on the advice of the Prime Minister,” according to the U.K.’s Institute for Government.   As well, “an early election requires at least two-thirds of the Commons to vote in favour.”  (Yes, we are aware of the breakdown of seats in parliament.)
Not that we believe that we should follow everything the U.K. does, but is it time that we look at fixed term administrations so that we take the guesswork out of the election process?  We imagine that it would be easier and less costly to administer since the Electoral Commission could plan more effectively rather than waiting to take action based on a notice.  Plus it removes an inherent advantage given to the party in power.
 We invite you to visit www.antiguaobserver.com and give us your feedback on our opinions.

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