Snap elections deliver strategic ABLP victory

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The Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP) on Wednesday turned what many had predicted would be a victory at the polls into an electoral rout, trouncing the main opposition United Progressive Party (UPP) to take 15 seats in the snap elections.
At a victory rally on North Street this morning, ABLP Leader Gaston Browne declared to thousands of supporters that the moment of victory and the realization of a successful political strategy was “not a time for gloating.”
Instead, the ABLP leader encouraged all parties to “cooperate toward the betterment of Antigua and Barbuda” and to forgo “the division of politics” in order to “reunite” the nation following a swift but divisive campaign.
Yet, while Browne discouraged gloating, thousands of party supporters clad in red paraded through the streets of St. John’s City blowing air horns and car horns, and dancing to Soca music in celebration of the victory. Similar scenes erupted across the island.
Strategically, Browne’s snap elections were a political success as his party gained one more seat in the Lower House and denied a seat to the UPP Leader Harold Lovell. Lovell’s bid to return to the Lower House of Parliament was dashed by Member of Parliament (MP) Melford Nicholas who thrashed the UPP leader with 769 votes to Lovell’s 616 votes.
Lovell’s constituency, St. John’s City East, was the first to be declared lost for the UPP on Wednesday just as it was the first seat to be declared in the 2014 general elections.
This reporter observed the counting of ballots in the prime minister’s constituency, St John’s City West, where Browne has now been elected for a fifth consecutive term after delivering a crushing defeat to the UPP’s contender, Wilmoth Daniel, the a former four-term MP for St. Phillip’s North, who left what many considered to be a ‘safe seat’ to challenge the prime minister.
Daniel was utterly defeated with Browne winning in all 10 boxes that were counted and securing 1457 votes to Daniel’s 565 votes.
Shortly after telling this reporter that he was “confident” of a victory following an intense campaign, the former UPP MP sat in the yard of the Villa Primary School and waited for the count.
Despite box after box being lost to Browne, Daniel held out, remaining in the same seat for hours, huddled among his supporters, his usual exuberance and iconic fierceness fading with each box being declared for Browne. As the eighth box Continued on page 14
Snap Elections from page 3
was being counted, there came a ‘point of no return’ at which it was apparent that nothing could rescue Daniel’s chances of a win.
A sudden and powerful cheering from the ABLP supporters drove the UPP candidate to concede defeat and to leave while that count was in progress. Daniel was heckled and taunted by ABLP supporters as he left.
In St. John’s City South, the incumbent and undefeated MP Steadroy “Cutie” Benjamin, again retuned his seat to the ABLP fold winning 895 votes to leave his main contender, the UPP’s MIchael Burton with 355 votes.
In St. John’s Rural South, the ABLP’s Daryll Matthew will take office for the first time having defeated the UPP’s Kyron Simon who gained only 775 votes. In St. John’s Rural East, another newcomer Maria Bird-Browne defeated the UPP’s Trevor Young with over 1500 votes.
In St John’s Rural North, the incumbent ABLP MP Charles “Max” Fernandez retained his seat with 1708 votes when he came up against the UPP’s Dr. Mc Chesney Emanuel who managed to get 1057 votes.
In a stunning and widely unexpected victory, the ABLP’s Londell Benjamin managed to wrest St. John’s Rural West from the UPP, winning 1712 votes. Often touted as a UPP ‘garrison constituency’, St. John’s Rural West has been returned to the UPP and predecessor parties six consecutive times when former UPP Leader Baldwin Spencer ran there.
Richard Lewis replaced the aging Spencer on the ballot in this election and lost to Benjamin gaining only 1528 votes. With the votes being counted up to press time. Benjamin came within 30 votes of defeating Spencer in the June 2014 election.
In St. Mary’s North, the incumbent MP Molwyn Joseph successfully defended a challenge from the UPP’s Johnathon Joseph, emerging with 1882 votes to the UPP candidate’s 1220 votes. Next door in St. Mary’s South the incumbent ABLP MP Samantha Marshall won 942 votes. Her contender Cortwright Marshall of the UPP won 911 votes.
The ABLP Chairman and incumbent MP in St. Paul’s, Paul Chet Greene managed a significant victory over the UPP’s Gregory “Driftwood” Athill gaining 1315 votes against Athill’s 836 votes. In St Peter the incumbent MP Asot Michael gained a staggering 1736 votes against the UPP’s Colin Isaac who secured 577 votes.
Sir Robin Yearwood, a man who has been knighted for his 40 unbroken years in the Lower House of Parliament ensured that he would possibly attain 45 unbroken years. Sir Robin won with 884 votes to the UPP candidate Shawn Nicholas’ 355 votes.
Another stunning and widely unexpected defeat was delivered to the UPP in St. Phillip’s South, a ‘garrison constituency’ where former MP Wilmoth Daniel had kept the seat in the UPP camp for 20 years. Daniel’s replacement, Chester Hughes won 459 votes leaving him 20 votes behind his rival, Lennox Weston of the ABLP.
Michael Browne, the ABLP candidate for All Saints West kept his seat winning 1726 votes to the 1380 votes of his main rival, the UPP’s Lamin Newton. In All Saints East and St. Luke, a first counting of ballots gave the UPP candidate Jamal Pringle a 10-vote victory over the ABLP’s Colin James. However, with more spoilt ballots – 12 – than the margin of victory, James demanded a recount.  Upon the conclusion of the recount the original votes were confirmed and Pringle delived the UPP’s sole seat.
St. George’s incumbent MP Dean Jonas won his seat for a second time, defeating the UPP’s George Wehner. Jonas secured 2083 votes compared to 1452 votes for his challenger. In Barbuda, the BPM delivered the only significant blow to the ABLP in the elections, with BPM candidate Trevor Walker defeating the ABLP incumbent MP Arthur Nibbs with 558 votes against Nibbs’ 429 votes
Walker is the only member of the opposition to have convincingly won his seat and it remains to be seen who will be sworn in as the Leader of the Opposition.

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