Editorial: Happy new (election) year

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Resolutions have been made, ‘Auld Lang Syne’ has been sung and kisses and hugs have been shared. It is now time to get back to business. Welcome to 2018! We here at the Observer Media Group of Companies wish you all a happy, healthy, prosperous and blessed new year. As we see 2017 fade into our rear view mirrors, we focus on the future and hope and pray that this new year will be better than every year before it. From all signs, 2018 will very likely be an election year.
Of course, there is no certainty around that prediction, because it would appear that the election clock is in the hands of one man, Prime Minister Gaston Browne. While he has made the waters very murky with his comment that the election will come “like a thief in the night,” the element of surprise may be eluding the PM in his quest to call a snap election (if that was his intention at all). It is not beyond the boundaries of possibilities, that all of this could be part of an elaborate ruse to distract the opposition and get them running around like chickens without heads. Similar to the slight of hand performed by a magician.
Keep the audience distracted with an overt and deliberate move by one hand, while the other hand does the ‘magic’ away from prying eyes. Be that as it may, the PM is certainly giving a whole lot of clues that an election is coming in 2018. In his New Year’s Address, he devoted most of the address to defending his administration’s performance over the past three and a half years and cast it against the previous government, especially the final term, when Harold Lovell held the position as minister of finance.
Like he so successfully did in the past election, PM Browne seems intent on making this election very personal. In his over 4,500- word New Year’s Address, there is no mention of the former prime minister, Baldwin Spencer. Instead, all of the perceived wrongs perpetrated by the United Progressive Party (UPP) administration are laid at the feet of its current political leader, Senator Harold Lovell. In fact, the PM is pellucid in his summation of Senator Lovell’s performance stating, “What is clear, is that we cannot trust Harold Lovell and the UPP to run the economy anywhere — but into the ground.”
This will not be an election fought on the battlefield of social, economic and other serious issues, rather this will be a battle of personalities. This is where the PM feels strongest. We saw the strategy come into play in 2014 with the focus on “Gaston Browne and Team Labour” and that has carried on throughout the current term. The Antigua Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP) is defined by and centres around Gaston Browne. The other party members seem to have contentedly taken their positions as supporting cast.
The UPP on the other hand seem to be sticking to the traditional strategies, even though it was not successful the last time around. In his much shorter fourand-a-half-page address, PM hopeful Harold Lovell seems to have taken a decision to focus more on issues and his party’s plan than an entire rant against the government of the day. Maybe he has decided that he will not play the PM’s game or maybe he does not recognise that aspect of the PM election strategy.
Time will tell. In any case, that is politics. The party in power blames all ills on the former administration while the opposition blames all ills on the party in power. At the same time, both continue to make promises that they believe the voting public wants to hear. It is up to us, the people, to make sense out of nonsense and force our politicians to present clear, realistic solutions to the issue which concern us.
If there is a political new year’s resolution to be made, it is not for the politicians to make, rather it is for each one of us to hold our politicians accountable, regardless of whether they are part of the governing administration or the opposition. We need to wake them up to the reality that we are not sheep looking for a shepherd. We are the people and we are looking for a few good employees that can carry out the administration of the country’s business in a transparent and accountable manner.
Those who are interested in submitting their resumes for consideration must demonstrate that they are people of vision. They must be honest and selfless. And as good employees, they must subject themselves to questions from their employers in a humble and willing manner. If these basic skills and characteristics are missing, then there is no need to apply

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