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Tuesday, 19 October, 2021
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Health Minister posits elections can be held under State of Emergency, if necessary

By Carlena Knight

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Amid speculations that there will be early elections, the question of whether the polls can be held under a State of Emergency has also surfaced, but Minister of Health Molwyn Joseph is confident that measures can be put in place to do so if the need arises. 

“Oh, we have a long time before we are faced with that decision,” Joseph said.

“Fortunately for human beings we have the capacity to adjust and I am sure that if there is an election, we will find innovative ways of structuring our approach to Covid to facilitate the elections. So, I don’t see that as a challenge that should be taken on now,” he added. 

In June 2020, Prime Minister Gaston Browne hinted that the general elections — which are constitutionally due in March 2023 — could be held as early as November this year and developments coming out of last week’s Cabinet meeting have done little to quell that notion.

The post-Cabinet report stated that the Supervisor of Elections has been instructed “to make the arrangements to purchase ballot paper, to acquire all other supplies necessary to conduct free and fair elections and to ensure that all human and material resources required to hold flawless elections are available to the Antigua and Barbuda Electoral Commission in quick order”.

Despite the chatter, Joseph revealed his focus is on the safety of the nation as the new Covid-19 variants are wreaking-havoc in other countries.

“The challenge facing us is how we fight the variants that are devastating lives in Trinidad and Tobago. Variants that are devasting lives in India and so my tendency is to use my energy to focus on what really is the dangers ahead of me and ahead of the country,” Joseph explained. 

Meanwhile, on the weekend, Prime Minister Gaston Browne said it was his prerogative to ensure that as leader of the Antigua Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP) that elections are called within the most opportune time for his party.

He has now put everyone, including his party colleagues, on notice. 

“Elections can be called at any time and I have to use it to the strategic benefit of the Antigua Barbuda Labour Party. It may be that we go to March 2023 or we may not, so it is constitutionally permissible for me to call it before if I wish. All I will say to the people of Antigua and Barbuda, and especially to my colleagues who will be running the various constituencies, just be ready because I am not afraid to call election,” Browne said. 

Just this week, pundits weighed in on if it would be a good move for the ABLP-led government to call early elections. 

Speaking on Sunday’s Big Issues programme, political commentator and current Director of Political Affairs at New York firm, Paramount Communications – Dr Oswald Thomas — said that an early election may be a good move for the ruling administration, as multiple political parties in the region have retained power during the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, political and social commentator Carlon Knight had completely opposite views.

Knight posited that a “snap election” should be announced when the government has an advantage, but unlike the last election “the opposition seems to be far more regular. I mean, last time around the snap election caught the opposition off guard [but] the same does not apply this time. They produced their candidates early. They know to expect an election because it can be called at any point”.

The country’s last poll was held on March 21, 2018 and came 15 months before the elections were constitutionally due.

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