EDITORIAL: Stronger together or apart?

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In light of the outcome of Wednesday’s general election, all eyes are on the
opposition. We use that term in a generic way because the opposition is in obvious
turmoil.  Probably the most frequently asked question since the election results were known, is and has been, what happens next?  
Back when the Democratic National Alliance (DNA) launched and we welcomed them to the political environment, we asked, “what will the party’s impact be on the next general election?” As we said back then, logic dictated that since the DNA was born out of a divorce between its political leader Joanne Massiah and the United Progressive Party (UPP), the new party would likely pull votes from the UPP but would have limited impact on the Antigua Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP). That bit of logic certainly played out in Election 2018. But with the showing of the UPP, or lack of showing, the DNA could be considered stronger today than it was going into the polls. 
Antigua and Barbuda is traditionally a two-party political system and ‘outside’ parties have not fared well at the polls. Prior to the DNA, the Antigua and Barbuda True Labour party tried to be the “third” party in the general elections of 2014. It fielded five candidates and was only able to muster a total of 182 votes. The other two outsiders, The Missing Link VOP and the Antigua Barbuda People’s Movement received 12 and 7 votes respectively for the single candidate that each party fielded.   
In 2018, the DNA fared somewhat better. The party fielded 13 candidates and received a total of 754 votes. That is the best showing of a third party that we can remember. But what does it mean? And more specifically, what does it mean for opposition in our bit of paradise?
We still contend that Antigua and Barbuda is a two-party system and there is little to no chance that a third party could ever seriously contend in a general election. The reason for this is that the policies and philosophies of the parties are all too similar. Not only that, the two main parties, the ABLP and the UPP have a base of support rooted in the unions. That dwindles over time but it is still very much in play.
The situation is further complicated when alternative parties are formed as a result of splits from the established parties. The new parties fight for support from the same base of people and in Antigua, the base is very loyal. We saw it with True Labour and we saw it with the DNA. This is not to deter anyone from starting a party and presenting their ideas to the public, but the reality is, a third party under these circumstances in this political environment is unlikely to make a significant impact. It is essentially why there is the UPP. The opposition realised that they needed to be united in order to have a chance against a strong labour party.
Politics is a lot about egos but it is also about mastering the art of compromise. This latter quality will be essential for all the opposition parties if they intend to have any success at the polls. The question that the opposition parties must now ask themselves is: are their causes better served working together or staying apart? To us, the answer is clear but unfortunately that is where the ego characteristic of politicians begins to take over.   
Again, the interesting thing about this whole situation is that the opposition does not have to look too far for examples. Melford Nicholas and Dean Jonas were once strong opponents of the ABLP. They stood shoulder-to-shoulder with those that denounced the then Antigua Labour Party. Today, both men are members of the cabinet. Melford Nicholas is the Minister of Information, Broadcasting, Telecommunications and Information Technology while Dean Jonas is Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Barbuda Affairs. How did they get there? Well,
after they fell out with the UPP, it became a case of the enemy of my enemy is my friend. There was a meeting of the minds between the ABLP and these two gentlemen where they decided that they were stronger together than apart. The romance blossomed into a marriage and, as they say, the rest is history. 
The future of the opposition will be interesting. Harold Lovell has already committed to the struggle and we doubt that Joanne Massiah is going anywhere. In his concession speech, Mr. Lovell said, “I daresay your country still needs you. It still needs all of us. I stand ready to continue fighting for HOPE and for a better Antigua and Barbuda, and I urge all of you to join with me, as we continue the struggle for a better tomorrow.” 
Meanwhile, on its Facebook page, the DNA says, “We pledge to be a strong opposition. One that does not seek to disrupt development but rather seek to develop solutions for the challenges we face. We can only do this with YOUR help. Together we can do much to ensure Prosperity For All. Let’s do this together!”
We will wait to see if the last part – “Together we can do much …” will morph into ‘Together we can do much more‘ as it relates to their political adversary that stands on the same side of the line.
We invite you to visit www.antiguaobserver.com and give us your feedback on our opinions.

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