The habit of governments calling snap general elections in the region appears to be in the air with authorities in Antigua giving every indication they could follow the lead of the Barbados Labor Party (BLP) and head to the polls this year with more than a year left in the 60-month term.
Just this week, Antiguan Prime Minister, Gaston Browne erased any doubts about a 2023 contest by ordering his ministers, senators and other high officials to step up their game, go into communities, fix any and all problems and be ready to battle the main opposition United Progressive Party (UPP) this year.
Browne had in recent months been giving very strong signals to the twin island nation with Barbuda that he intends to fight the UPP for a second consecutive term, even bragging on a radio program that he will win all 17 seats this time around, mimicking Mia Mottley’s BLP in Barbados and Keith Mitchell’s New National Party (NNP) in Grenada. The Antigua and Barbuda Labor Party (ABLP) won 15 of the 17 seats in 2018.
Brown’s comments came less than a week after the UPP, apparently learning from the problems Barbados’ Labor Party (DLP) experienced when Mottley dropped the election bombshell on them, decided to be ready and launched its campaign late last week. The Barbados polls were held on Jan. 16 with a mere three weeks of campaigning. For the second time in a row, the BLP won all 30 seats, leaving the future of the DLP in doubt with its second wipeout.
Prime ministerial candidate and former finance and foreign minister, Harold Lovell said he wanted the UPP to be ready and not be caught off guard even as political pundits warn the party about using up too much political energy and ammunition too early.
Commentator Carlon Knight told the Observer that the party might be correct to get its act together now rather than be caught napping.
“I think that certainly what we are seeing is a party that is clear that it will not be caught with its pants down like the last time where they were scrambling to get people in place, scrambling to get an election campaign mobilized, scrambling to put all the pieces together because the prime minister called a snap election, for which it was clear in the eyes of the ordinary public that they were not ready,” he said.
Speaking on another radio program, PM Browne moved to marshal his troops, telling them to complete tasks and attend to constituents.
“This year is, in essence, an election year and we have to up the ante. Ministers, senators, all of us, should be literally scurrying the entire political landscape looking at the various issues and responding to the issues and do so robustly.” He wants the electorate to properly examine the ABLP’s track record over the past four years.
As the twin island awaits a formal announcement, civil servants are gearing up to take industrial action against the administration in a bitter row over unpaid time remuneration.
In response, the government says it will buy and reopen the trendy Jolly Harbor Beach Resort that had been closed since the March 2020 pandemic as workers, demanding severance pay and other emoluments, are preparing for street protests. Severed workers will be rehired when the resort resumes service.
“The government is systematically moving to reduce the monies we owe to these groups of workers. We do not want to make the obvious point that revenues fell dramatically during the Covid. Now we are rebounding and we are slowly prioritizing different workers,” Junior Finance Minister Lennox Weston said.
Other regional bloc member or associate nations with elections scheduled for this year include Bermuda and Grenada as well as the US Virgin Islands.
There are no fixed date elections in the bloc of mostly former British colonies. Heads of governments can call a date anytime during their five year terms once they comply with basic constitutional mandates.