By Kadeem Joseph
It has been a week since the main opposition United Progressive Party (UPP) announced its first four candidates for the constitutionally due 2023 general election – and political commentators have agreed that there are benefits to launching an early campaign.
Speaking on Observer’s Big Issues programme on Sunday, political analyst Ansel St Hilaire said the positive spin-offs could be realised if the candidates can “get into the field early, round up support, sell his manifesto” and make their promises to the people known.
St Hilaire added that if the candidate can make an impact on the electorate as an activist, “then certainly he would have presented himself as someone of action, someone of vision and someone who is willing to be a participant with the people in development”.
Speaking during the same programme, senior political consultant Victor Richardson said he believes in cases where a candidate is being introduced to the electorate for the first time it is beneficial to announce early, especially in areas where the incumbent is entrenched.
“You want to get your new candidates out there as early as possible. You want to get home, knocking on doors to build up their name recognition on the streets,” he explained.
One drawback in announcing names early, Richardson said, is that it allows their opponents to “craft their own narrative regarding the candidacy”. He said, however, a good campaign strategises to mitigate against such risks.
Political and social affairs commentator, Carlon Knight, who joined the panel, said the move by the UPP shows that the party has learned a lesson from the 2018 election.
“One of the key lessons coming out of the last election was the unfamiliarity with the candidates that were chosen and that was mainly because of the snap election that was called,” he said. “I think the party is trying to ensure that its candidates are out there and campaigning as early as possible.”
Among the new candidates announced was hotelier and political newcomer, Alex Browne.
He replaces Senator Shawn Nicholas for the St Philip North constituency and is expected to run against incumbent Sir Robin Yearwood of the Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP).
Political commentator and community activist Alister Thomas is another new candidate who was added to the party’s slate. He is expected to face off against Prime Minister Gaston Browne in the St John’s City West constituency.
Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Richard Lewis will represent the UPP in the St John’s Rural West constituency for the second time. During the last election, Lewis lost to the ABLP’s incumbent for the area, Londell Benjamin.
Businessman Michael Burton has also received the nod of approval for the second time from the UPP and will once again come up against incumbent Steadroy ‘Cutie’ Benjamin of the ABLP in the St John’s City South constituency.
Political Leader of the UPP Harold Lovell says the party will be presenting another batch of candidates shortly.