Voters head to the polls today to elect new government

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By Robert A. Emmanuel

[email protected]

The electorate have begun to head to their respective polling stations as political parties await their fate in the country’s general elections.

After months of campaigning, political rallies and campaign advertisements hitting the radio waves and online media space, the three main political parties and three independent candidates now put their fate into the hands of the electorate.

The Antigua Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP) is hoping for a third consecutive term in office, consolidating their power for another five years, while opposition parties – the United Progressive Party (UPP) and Democratic National Alliance (DNA) – are looking to defeat the ruling administration.

At the same time, the Barbuda People’s Movement (BPM) under Trevor Walker is looking to retain its Parliamentary seat to represent Barbuda, and will face off against the ABLP’s candidate Knacyntar Nedd.

Meanwhile, the Antigua and Barbuda Electoral Commission (ABEC) has already sworn in all election day workers and has advised the public to go out and exercise their democratic franchise between the stipulated time of 6am and 6pm.

ABEC spokesperson Elisa Graham, in an interview with Observer yesterday, is “encouraging voters to ensure that they have their photo ID cards ready and their voter ID cards secure”.

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Voter registration increased significantly over the last five years with overall figures showing a 19 percent increase

Graham also said that persons who have lost or misplaced their voters’ ID can obtain temporary ID cards for the day which must be left at the polling station after voting.

“They would need to bring a passport-sized photo to the [ABEC] headquarters… and that passport photo would be fixed to a card, that card will be signed and stamped, and they would be issued a letter.

“They would take that letter and temporary ID card to the polling station and then they would be able to exercise their franchise,” Graham said.

Meanwhile, several election observer groups representing the Organisation of American States, Caricom, and the Commonwealth will be monitoring the country’s electoral process today. They have been meeting with various social and political groups in the country, including the political parties, the National Youth Parliament Association of Antigua and Barbuda, and several media houses.

Speaking to Observer yesterday, chief of the Caricom mission Josephine Tamai said her assessment of the last few days was that anticipation of the election was evident although this was more visible in certain communities.

Today, the team will be observing the various constituencies, looking at the electoral process in detail, from the opening of the polling stations at 6am until the final results are announced.

According to the Caricom Mission Chief, the group will present a preliminary report with a press conference due to take place at 2pm Thursday.

That will be followed by a comprehensive report given to the Caricom Secretary General which will be sent to whomever forms the new government.

Tamai, who has held the position of Chief Elections Officer in Belize for more than a decade, said the report will highlight areas where the team believes improvements can be made, and also where the country excels to inspire other regional countries.

Additionally, as is customary for all general elections, police officers will be present at all polling stations to ensure there’s a free, fair and peaceful election process.

The Royal Police Force of Antigua and Barbuda has been preparing its officers for several weeks now. In December, Police Commissioner Atlee Rodney described the preparations as the force’s “largest security operation”.

Meanwhile, with an increase in voter registration of more than 9,000 individuals since the last general elections in 2018, voter turnout is expected to be high as, according to ABEC, there will be 60,916 persons eligible to vote today.

The most notable increases were in the constituency of St Peter which has 4,609 registered voters – an increase of 52 percent from 3,041 registered voters in 2018; St John’s City South has 2,060 registered voters which is an increase of 25 percent from 1,652 registered voters in 2018; St John’s Rural South has 3,910 registered voters, an increase of 21 percent from 3,227 registered voters in 2018.

Also, St John’s City East has 2,166 registered voters, an increase of 22 percent from 1,769 registered voters in 2018; St Mary’s North has 5,171 registered voters, an increase of 20 percent from 4,322 registered voters in 2018; All Saints West has 5,021 registered voters, an increase of 20 percent from 4,169 registered voters in 2018; and St George has 5,883 registered voters, an increase of 21 percent from the 4,878 registered voters in 2018.

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