By Orville Williams
The election buzz continues to permeate the population at a growing pace, with the Antigua and Barbuda Electoral Commission (ABEC) reporting an increase in voter registration at the end of last year.
Back in 2020, as political tension heightened due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, Prime Minister Gaston Browne stoked the fire by suggesting that the next general election – constitutionally due in 2023 – could be brought forward to “as early as November ”.
And, last year, the Supervisor of Elections was instructed to arrange all the necessary human and material resources required to hold flawless elections, and to have them available to ABEC in quick time.
Though the election did not end up materialising at the end of last year as hinted, the ABEC disclosed that there was a spike in voter registration during December.
“We [are seeing] an increase in the number of persons who are going to the respective constituency units to be registered. There are approximately 230 persons that we have on record who registered in December last year.
“The largest number of persons was in the constituency of St Peter, the second largest was St George, the third-largest was St Mary’s North, followed by St John’s Rural West.
“We also have St John’s Rural South and St Mary’s South. Those are the top constituencies that we have in terms of heightened registration,” ABEC Public Relations Officer, Elisa Graham, explained during an appearance on the Voice of the People programme.
It should be noted that two of those constituencies – St Peter and St George – are represented by leaders who have been involved in their fair share of controversy over the past two years.
Asot Michael, the Member of Parliament for St Peter, has had an escalating rift with the Prime Minister for some time and, according to the PM, will not be given the opportunity to retain his seat on the Antigua Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP) ticket.
St George MP Dean Jonas, meanwhile, was removed from his role as Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Barbuda Affairs in January 2020, soon after the PM met with a number of disgruntled workers in that ministry.
He was reappointed a few months later, however, as Minister of Social Transformation and the Blue Economy.
While some will speculate as to the reasons for the increase in registration in those constituencies, Graham suggested that the uncertainty surrounding the date of the election could be encouraging people to get registered.
“Of course, we don’t know exactly the reasons for [the increase], [but] those happen to be among some of the larger constituencies.
“I [also] think the word is getting out there that, if a general election is called anytime soon, persons want to be prepared,” she said.
The ABLP secured 15 of the 17 available seats in the last general election back in 2018, with the United Progressive Party (UPP) and the Barbuda People’s Movement (BPM) securing the other two.