One of the hottest discussions on the street surrounds the possibility of an early election. Early elections are not typical in this neck of the woods so people are intrigued by the possibility. No group is more energised by this topic than the conspiracy theorists but we will get to them and their theories in a moment.
The latest ‘hint’ of an early election came from the mouth of Foreign Affairs Minister Charles “Max” Fernandez as he discussed the timeline of the proposed hotel projects in our bit of paradise. Minister Fernandez said, “Elections could be next month, it could be early next year and it’s going to be very difficult to see that any of these mega projects would be completed within 12 months or even 18 months, but certainly at least two of the major projects will be out of the ground before the next election, even if it’s within six months.”
That is quite the statement and clearly reflects that there is a school of thought within the Antigua Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP) that an early election would be in the party’s best interest if they are to retain power after the next general election. Trying to analyse the pros and cons of an early election is a very entertaining exercise and if you give it a try, you will see that you easily get conflicting arguments in your head. Let’s give it a try and let’s spice things up with a dash of conspiracy theories.
The greatest influence for politicians or political parties calling an early election is the thought that they are at the crest of popularity. Not that they are necessarily hugely popular but rather, their popularity is probably at its highest in the foreseeable future – leading up to an election.
If we look at it from the ABLP’s perspective, and as pointed out by Minister Fernandez, many of the large projects are still simply promises and have not evolved in any major way. The rushed signing of the Yida International memorandum has yielded more controversy than anything else and the two model villas under construction do little to quell anybody’s frustrations. At this point, there is still hope in the promises such as Yida, Callaloo Cay, Half Moon Bay, Paradise Found, etc. However, with every passing day, that hope diminishes and if they wait and nothing much happens in the next two years, that hope will risk being eliminated.
Then there is the promise and hope of jobs. If the yet-to-be launched hotels are unable to create jobs, especially for the youth, then the government must rely on internal projects to satisfy the hunger for work. The most prominent of the ABLP’s job creation projects was the ‘500 homes in 500 days’ but that has not gotten off the ground with the speed that was expected. Three years in and the numbers associated with that project have not lived up to expectations. In a nutshell, it is a case of more days and fewer houses with few jobs at lower than expected pay.
Many conspiracy theorists deem that there is more politics than economics in this decision. They believe that the ABLP is hoping to take advantage of what is perceived to be a weak opposition. According to the theories being bandied around, the prime minister believes that Senator Lovell and the opposition United Progressive Party (UPP) are not ready to contest an election and that gives the ABLP the upper hand. The thought process is apparently: why wait for the UPP to gain strength when we can hit them when they are down?
Of course, the UPP member say that they are ready to go to the polls and they are confident that the party will be victorious. They point to what they refer to as failed promises relating to foreign direct investment, hotel projects, the ‘less than 500 homes in more than 500 days’, and the lack of jobs – “to name a few” they say.
Let’s not forget the new political parties that believe an early election is their best shot at success. From their point of view, an early election signifies a self-admission by the ABLP that they have failed to deliver on their manifesto promises and are looking for an easy way to retain power. They contend that the change that people voted for in 2014 never materialised and voters are not ready to return to the UPP, so an outside party stands the best chance of meeting the people’s expectations.
Regardless of your point of view, these are some of the most entertaining political discussions we have had in a while. Will the ABLP decide that the risks are too great to wait out their initial term or will they stick to their original plan and hope that projects and jobs materialise before they have to present themselves to the electorate to be judged? We are not betting people but if you had to put your money on whether there will be an early election or not, where would your money be?