Of polls and snap elections

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There is a lot of talk about a possible early election. Prime Minister Gaston Browne has hinted at the possibility more than once.  Most recently, when prodded on the matter, he said that the election would come “like a thief in the night” and when it is called, “there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth”.
You have to give it to the PM, he has the gift of the gab and is a shrewd politician. His hints at an early election have become one of the hot topics on the street and the possibility of returning to power, earlier than they forecasted, has the opposition United Progressive Party (UPP) salivating. He has created a great distraction that has people focusing on an unlikely event.
At the recent Black March, organized by the UPP, Chester Hughes fixated on the PM’s hints and challenged him to call the election now. Hughes was adamant that the Antigua & Barbuda Labour Party would suffer a massive defeat if the PM was so bold as to call a snap election.
The UPP political hopeful told the crowd, “If Gaston Browne calls the elections now he will recognise how unpopular he is in this country and even in his party.”  In his opinion, “The worse thing he [PM Browne] did was to hint at early elections. He has changed the mood of the people and people are now emboldened in the civil service to hold him accountable. Let him call the elections now and if he thinks the UPP is not ready he will see this big blue machine in action, we are ready. ”
If that is the general thinking of the party, then we would advise them that they should be careful what they wish for.
We already told you that we think that an early election is unlikely but here is why. Snap elections are notoriously difficult to execute successfully. We need look no further than the unnecessary early election called by UK Prime Minister, Theresa May.
Prime Minister May wanted to consolidate power. She wanted a majority so that she could push though with her agenda – a lot of which surrounds Brexit. A majority in Parliament would certainly make it easier. She and her fellow Tories were buoyed by the polls which showed them in a 15 point lead. In a leadership poll, she was trouncing her Labour opponent, Jeremy Corbyn, by 28 points.  The spreads were so big that they were considered unassailable and the Tories convinced themselves that they should forego the remaining three years of their mandate and call an early election.
It was completely unnecessary and it resulted in a spectacular fail.  The Tories did not win the majority and the election resulted in a hung Parliament.  Many have called on May to resign her position as leader and Prime Minister.
We will leave the analysis of what happened to others but the results speak for themselves. And if there is a takeaway, it is that politicians should not be blinded by polls and more importantly, snap elections are high risk manoeuvres. History is replete with examples of similar circumstances and outcomes.
None of this is to say that snap elections have not been successful.  There are also many examples of skilfully executed early elections. The results, however, are always decided on factors other than polls.
Locally, the chances of an early election are slim to none. We never say never but we cannot see the arguments for an early election outweighing the risks.
Aside from the obvious, snap elections are sometimes seen as arrogant and that can cause the voters to turn on popular politicians. Just ask the former Premier of the Canadian province of Ontario, David Peterson.  In 1990, just three years into his term and polling at 54 per cent, he decided he wanted more and called a snap election. The move was perceived as being arrogant and Peterson and his Liberal colleagues paid dearly.  It was the biggest upset in the province’s history, with the New Democratic Party (NDP) winning the majority and Peterson losing his seat to an NDP rookie.
Closer to home, the prime minister may be hinting at an early election but he has also committed to building 500 homes in this term. An early election would obliterate that promise and that would not sit well with voters who have given him a certain amount of latitude with the housing project. There are many other issues such as delayed projects, etc. that add to the risks and potential downside of calling an early election and we believe that the PM is cognizant of those.  That is why, we believe, that it is unlikely that he will call an early election.  Two years in the hand is worth five more in the bush.
And, if by chance Prime Minister Browne was not convinced before, we are fairly sure that he is now — after witnessing Theresa May’s failure in the United Kingdom.  And, if we are correct, that just means that he is having fun with teasing an early election.
We invite you to visit www.antiguaobserver.com and give us your feedback on our opinions.

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