Political pundits weigh in on imminent election date

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Political commentator Peter Wickham (Photo courtesy Barbados Today)
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By Kadeem Joseph

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With general elections constitutionally due in March 2023, and the recent conclusion of the Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party’s convention, many are keenly anticipating the announcement of the date when the country will once again head to the polls.

While the choice of the date remains the prerogative of Prime Minister Gaston Browne, he has been hinting at early elections for some time, and two political commentators and pollsters are suggesting that the most pressing issues should be considered before a date is set.

For Peter Wickham, global economic considerations, including the war in Ukraine that has caused rises in the cost of fuel and other commodities, and their impact on the local economy is an important factor.

Many have been lamenting the increased cost of living in Antigua and Barbuda amid the economic downtown caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and other pressures. The issue has sparked public debates about the appropriateness of the government’s response.

Aside from the impact of the war in Ukraine, Wickham believes that the country’s performance during the winter tourism season will also be a “key factor” since it “would offset any major economic considerations”.

“My feeling is that the functional issues, which are things like water and housing and so on, I think that those will probably be dealt with within a matter of weeks which would give him (PM Gaston Browne) the latitude of calling it even earlier if he wanted to,” he explained further, noting that the winter season is a good time to create a “feel-good factor”.

He said that with the PM opting against calling an election well in advance of the constitutional due date, as was the case in 2018, the question now is what is a “reasonable or normal” time in which to call an election, “giving yourself say two or three months, which is the norm”.

“I am thinking any time from December to probably February would be a reasonable time to consider,” Wickham opined. “As you said, he could go to March, or he could even take a few months further, but my sense is, he would probably want to get it out of the way before then.”

Meanwhile, Linley Winter explained that as the ruling administration, the Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party first has the insight of knowing if the Antigua and Barbuda Electoral Commission has the resources to conduct a successful election.

He said the party must also do some introspection to determine if, as a political party, it is ready.

“Given that they are in government, they have now got to determine whenever that date is called that the primary issues of concern for people in the nation are, by and large, such that they think that it would not affect them negatively, or conversely that they have done enough to convince most of the voters that they are worth another shot in government. That’s the long and short of it,” Winter explained.

He added that, based on research, the core electoral issues vary from constituency to constituency with road works, general sanitation, water availability and job creation among pressing matters.

Winter noted that the state of the Social Security scheme, access to healthcare and the upkeep of community centres and facilities are also a major concern in some areas.

Winter recently released details of a poll that he’d conducted in seven constituencies which showed the UPP leading in five constituencies, tying with the incumbent in one constituency and the ABLP ahead in the other.

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