Editorial: The will of the people

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Election 2018 is over and the people have spoken.  Congratulations are in order for the Antigua Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP) as they have secured a mandate from the people to govern the nation for another 5 years, or at least until they decide to call the next general election.  The analysis will follow, but no matter how you slice it, the ABLP obviously delivered the more convincing argument to the people and they have been rewarded with a second consecutive term to continue what they started in 2014. 
Campaign 2018 was one for the ages.  From our perspective, this one was unlike any other that we could think of.  To begin with, it was called over one year early and although the PM had hinted at early elections and said that the election “would come like a thief in the night,” the announcement still seemed to have caught a lot of people off guard.  From all the election paraphernalia on the ground, it was obvious that the ABLP was the most prepared having leveraged their ability to call the election date and prepare in advance.
Billboards, some with enough plywood and timber to build a house, popped up almost overnight and posters littered our visual senses.  There are probably few, if any lampposts that do not have at least one political poster affixed to it.  The ‘Big Red Machine’ rumbled to the start and was strong out of the gate while everyone else attempted to play catch-up.  The United Progressive Party (UPP) and the Democratic National Alliance (DNA) quickly realised that there was no way to match the early public barrage of election paraphernalia deployed by the ABLP and sought to counter the effort with a ground attack. They concentrated their efforts in the constituencies and
attempted to overcome the sea of red with a more personalised touch – going home-to-home and trying to make a more intimate connection.
The 2018 campaign also took our political discourse to a new low and distilled our politics to a mud-slinging contest that had little to do with the issues and concerns of the public.  The politicians were more interested in character assassination than informing the electorate on their plans for the future.  In all of our election observations, we did not witness a single attempt at a debate of the issues.  There were no serious ‘point/counter-point’ exchanges where the voters could get a glimpse of the future for which they are voting.  Instead, they were treated to name-calling, gross allegations of many kinds and very personal attacks.  
The problem with that is, people cheered.  They supported their beloved candidates no matter what they said or did.  Candidates were not held accountable for their actions because of the political chasm that separates our people based on the colour that they support.  The kool-aid flowed and the people cheerfully gulped down their artificially sweetened political beverage of choice without any thought of the long-term damage being done to our little bit of paradise.
When the campaign was over and Election Day had arrived, voter turnout was slow and low.  It did not deliver the wind of change that many in opposition were hoping for, and it was clear evidence that the voters were more than willing to give Gaston Browne and Team Labour a chance to deliver on their previous and new promises.  It was not the 17-nil clean sweep that the Prime Minister had predicted but it matters little.
With the election over, we hope that some grown-ups will emerge from the bunch of childish politicians and take our politics to the next level – a level that steers away from the nastiness and charts a course towards a more civil approach to electioneering.   As a community, we have allowed this nonsense to go on for too long.  We have cheered at the name-calling and we have turned a blind eye to the wrongs.  But that must stop if we are to transform Antigua and Barbuda into a player that ‘punches above our weight class.’
The ABLP have secured the right to lead the charge for the next five years.  That is the will of the people and it must be respected.  It is now time for everyone to put down their political daggers and ‘bad-mindedness’ and work together to build a better nation for a more prosperous tomorrow for all.

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