“The sooner the better” or a “sweet January” – political analysts talk early elections

arvel vs grant
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By Elesha George

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A general election may be nasty business for those vying for a seat in Parliament, but for thousands of voters, it is a time to get things done that were more unlikely to have been completed during the reigning government’s tenure.

It is the question of whether Christmas cakes and a few moments of cheer can sway undecided electors to vote for the Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP), as opposed to the United Progressive Party (UPP) or the Democratic National Alliance (DNA) in the Constitutionally due March 2023 general elections.

That is essentially the premise of political analyst, Peter Wickham’s, argument as to why he imagines that an election date announcement early in the new year would be more strategic for the party with the most resources. Historically, that is the party attempting to retain political power.

January, Wickham said is a “perfect month” to hold elections given the historic increase in economic activity around that time.

“I think that I’m at the stage of my preferred date for elections to be January 2023 … It would be a long month for the Opposition and it would be a relatively short month for the person that has the resources,” he said.

Analyst, Arvel Grant, on the other hand, has put his bet on a 2022 announcement, particularly after hearing an interview with Prime Minister Gaston Browne who appeared on State TV last Sunday.

“You get the impression that something is going on in his head around using the Independence Day statement as some kind of a big launch pad,” Grant remarked.

He said the prime minister seems eager to announce the election date “very soon,” actioning plans in an attempt to appease voters, even if that means borrowing money to increase salaries for civil servants or to pay long overdue severance and back pay.

“My own sense is that delay is danger because of how dynamic the situation is,” Grant offered.

Nevertheless, he believes that the incumbent government has a good chance of being re-elected unless the two Opposition parties step up their campaigning.

“Having said that, when you look at the scale of victory which the Labour Party managed against the United Progressive Party in 2018, it’s going to take quite a massive swing for the United Progressive Party to get to a place where it can haul back eight or nine seats in a single five-year term.”

“The government may be looking at the whole numbers, and they may be seeing that a four or five or six percentage points could lose them St Mary’s South, St Phillips South and perhaps Rural West, and then for Mr Lovell to get in, they probably need a 10, 11, 12 percentage points … the United Progressive Party and the DNA may be kicking up a storm on the ground that I’m not aware of, but that storm would have to be a category four or five to shove the government out of office,” he explained.

Grant also doesn’t believe that government borrowing money to pay their debt to workers will affect their ability to attract voters, save and except the majority of public servants vote against them.

“If they think, in the great majority of them, that they’re going to be better off because of these loans, then it’s going to have to take a comparative segue in the amount of people who are employed in the private sector, and certainly people who are self-employed, to make that argument a sustainable one,” he noted.

He said that whether the government chooses to borrow money to increase wages for example, or if it decides not to, both scenarios present a “dangerous “possibility going into an election.

According to Wickham, the same is to be said for severed Jolly Beach workers who will soon begin receiving severance, having been owed since March 2020.

He said that while they will receive their hard-earned remuneration, they also have to contend with remaining out of jobs for the time being.

“You can rest assured that the persons receiving the payments will be quite happy. The other side of it is that Jolly Beach is still not operating; the rooms are still not available and there is substantial political room to spin the Jolly Beach situation negatively,” he argued.

Meanwhile, Wickham has discouraged Prime Minister Browne from making disparaging comments that could cost him voter support.

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