Editorial: So close yet …

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The results of the recent mock election held by the Free and Fair Election League and the poll executed by Caribbean Development Research Services (CADRES) have Antigua and Barbuda in an election frenzy. In every corner of our bit of paradise, the talk of a possible early election dominates the conversations. Those that claim that they are in the know state that we can expect parliament to be dissolved very soon (maybe next week) and elections to be held before the middle of April.
We have been told that the Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP) is busy clearing building materials and campaign paraphernalia from the port and the party will soon convene to confirm their slate of candidates. In response, the opposition parties say that they are ready, even though we would be surprised if they are as ready as they claim or as ready as the ABLP. If these “in the know” predictions are accurate, then this will indeed be as close as we can come to a ‘thief in the night’ election. Heck, we have not even seen a draft manifesto from anyone.
We are not sure if the rumours are indeed coming from persons in the know or if the mock election and the CADRES poll have just stirred up the election hornets’ nest. In either case, it is good to have the country in a state of readiness (at least mentally) if a snap early election is indeed called. People need to start vetting the candidates and carefully examining the parties’ plans for the nation.
One of the key downsides of snap, elections is the lack of time for the voting public to prepare and become familiar with the issues. Without the luxury of time to make comparisons and to see which party and candidate most closely matches people’s visions of the future, the votes typically break down along party lines. Very little analysis is done, and the politicians rely upon only two things: their base of supporters and the level of discontent/content felt by the public.
The CADRES poll reported that 35 percent of those interviewed were unwilling to state their preference or were undecided. That is a sizeable number. More than one third! While some of that number may be because of an unwillingness to share their preference, a good many will be truly undecided, and they are the swing voters that will carry the day. For politicians, this is where the risks lie. Without time to educate the voting public of accomplishments or failures, each party will have to rely upon the general feeling of satisfaction or dissatisfaction as to the way things are going in the country. And, it is much harder to deal with generalities than specifics.
For example, the opposition can say that the roads are terrible and invoke a direct response, but how does that play into an overall feeling of dissatisfaction? Enough to persuade people that the governing party is on the wrong track? On the other hand, the administration will boast of planned road works and point to a better future with them at the helm. In response, the opposition will highlight that the road works will materialized in the same way or better, if they are placed in government etc., etc., etc. It is a tussle that will not end and will mean little to how a person will vote when faced with limited time to analyze the facts.
It will likely come down to a level of comfort for voters. Which one of the parties in the running makes you feel most comfortable? Who do you trust to hold your money, and your future? And not just your future, but also the future of your children and grandchildren that is at stake. The parties all have their core supporters feeling comfortable, so there will be an evangelical type outreach to the swing voters to make them feel comfortable. And like any good preacher looking for a heavy collection plate, the politician will seek to find the topic or topics that evoke the greatest emotional response. Corruption is a favourite, but that has lost its appeal. Both parties have talked of rampant corruption while the other was in power, and when they get access to all the damaging records, nothing (or close to nothing) materializes.
The next favourite is the ‘lies and deceit’ platform. We get pushed into trying to decide who lied more (a.k.a. made more useless, unfulfilled promises) or who will steal less. The better of the few evils, if you prefer. What a conundrum! Then again, maybe all of this hype is for nothing. Maybe the election thief still is on the prowl and is waiting for everyone to go to sleep before stealing the election in the thick of night, later in the year. Whatever the case, we implore everyone to do his or her homework. Reject the all-you-can-drink Kool-Aid and make your Election Day decision based upon a proper analysis of the candidates, the parties, and their plans for your future.

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