OBSERVER looks at six questions on snap election

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Prime Minister Gaston Browne is said to have hinted recently about calling snap general elections in Antigua & Barbuda.
Here we answer six questions about snap elections.

  1. What is a snap general election?

A snap election is an election called earlier than expected. Under the Antigua & Barbuda Constitution, general elections are usually held every five years. The head of government, the Prime Minister, usually declares the date on which the general elections would be held.
However, the Prime Minister also has the right to call a general election before the five-year stipulated time period as determined by the constitution.

  1. Why would he do that or even think about it after just three years in office?

Generally, the Prime Minister would call a snap election to capitalise on the popularity his administration is enjoying at that time, or to offset declining popularity of his administration, or to gain majority support of the electorate on a controversial issue outside of calling a referendum.

  1. Is there a difference between a by-election, a recall election and a snap election?

Yes, they are all different.
A snap election is an election deliberately called earlier than expected by the government – when not required, either by law or convention – in a parliamentary system.
It differs from a recall election in that it is initiated by politicians (usually the head of government or ruling party) rather than voters.
A snap election is also different from a by-election in that the winners of the respective constituencies are entitled to serve as members of parliament for the full life of that parliament while a by-election is usually held to replace a member of parliament, who has been removed through sickness, death, resignation, or legal means. When someone wins a by-election that person serves the remainder of an already established term.

  1. Is there any major advantage to be gained from calling snap elections?

One important advantage in calling a snap election is that the opposition political party could be caught off guard and unprepared in terms of finance and the time to mobilise human and other resources for effective campaigning

  1. What is the disadvantage in calling a snap election?

Since the government (ruling political party) in power has the constitutional right to call snap elections they frequently result in increased majorities for the party already in power. However, there have been cases of snap elections backfiring and resulting in an opposition party winning or gaining power as have occurred within the past few years in the region – Trinidad and Tobago, and Guyana.

  1. Some people claim that snap elections could give governments unfair electoral advantage. Can this be changed?

The constitution could be changed to make fixed-term elections mandatory. In such a system, the Prime Minister does not have the legal power to call an election. He would request the head of state, the Governor General, to call the election. In most countries, the head of state would
grant such a request by convention.

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