Pundits weigh in on possibility of early elections

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Would calling the country’s general elections over a year early be a good move for the government?

Well, there are differing views on the matter as political commentators gave their opinions on the perception that the country may go to the polls before March 2023. 

Speaking on Sunday’s Big Issues programme, political commentator and current Director of Political Affairs at New York firm, Paramount Communications – Dr Oswald Thomas — said that an early election may be a good move for the ruling Antigua Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP) administration, as multiple political parties in the region have retained power during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

“People look at the measures put in place; people look at whether or not the government has done enough to keep them safe overall. And the government has maintained its payroll, hasn’t sent home anyone, has not retrenched … so everybody has been basically kept on board and has put some measures in place to sort of ease the pain. We know that we are not a wealthy nation to offer stimulus and direct payment,” he remarked.

Moreover, he said that, the opposition United Progressive Party (UPP) is not yet ready.

“Also given the fact that the UPP has not fully rebranded the party. They have started the rebuilding process but they have not rebranded,” opined Thomas.

However, political and social commentator Carlon Knight has completely opposite views.

“We are currently in the midst of a pandemic and the focus should really be getting Antigua and Barbuda through the pandemic. An election at this time may not be the best option for the government to both focus on campaigning for an election and that of focusing on a pandemic,” he said. 

Knight posited that a “snap election” should be announced when the government has an advantage, but unlike the last election “the opposition seems to be far more regular. I mean, last time around the snap election caught the opposition off guard [but] the same does not apply this time. They produced their candidates early. They know to expect an election because it can be called at any point”.

Meanwhile, community activist and co-host of Movement Radio – David Spencer said while he does not believe an early election would help the ABLP, the government may foresee its own advantages. 

“I think that the last time around, not only did the government factor into the decision to call early election, the fact the opposition might not have been all that ready, but also government might be able to look into their crystal balls to determine that this time it might be more advantageous to do so than later when worse things might come out of the closet,” he put forward.

Spencer claimed that this could be an attempt by the ABLP to weaken the opposition. 

 “So, I would want to think that it might just be an attempt to push the opposition towards the point of, what we would say, peaking too early; get its machinery in gear so when it does call election there might be that election fatigue on the part of its opposition and supporters,” he continued.

In June 2020, Prime Minister Gaston Browne hinted that the general elections could be held as early as November this year and the developments coming out of last week’s Cabinet meeting have done little to quell that notion.

 The post-Cabinet report stated that the Supervisor of Elections was instructed “to make the arrangements to purchase ballot paper, to acquire all other supplies necessary to conduct free and fair elections and to ensure that all human and material resources required to hold flawless elections are available to the Antigua and Barbuda Electoral Commission in quick order”.

The country’s last poll was held on March 21, 2018 and came 15 months before the elections were constitutionally due. 

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