Prime Minister Gaston Browne Thursday heightened speculation about another snap general election in Antigua and Barbuda after it emerged that Cabinet has instructed the Supervisor of Elections to be prepared to “conduct free and fair elections”.
Browne led his Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP) to a 15-2 victory in the March 21, 2018 general elections he called more than a year ahead of the constitutional date. The main opposition United Progressive Party (UPP) was declared winner of one seat on the main island, while the Barbuda People’s Movement’s (BPM) Trevor Walker won the lone seat on the smaller sister island.
In June last year, Browne hinted that the general elections, constitutionally due in 2023, could be held “as early as November next year” as he reacted to the decision by the UPP to name its first four candidates for the next election.
Predicting that his ABLP would improve on the 15 of the 17 seats it won in the 2018 snap election, Browne said that it would sweep all the seats.
A statement issued after the weekly Cabinet meeting noted that “the Cabinet has instructed the Supervisor of Elections to make the arrangements to purchase ballot paper, to acquire all other supplies necessary to conduct free and fair elections, and to ensure that all human and material resources required to hold flawless elections are available to the Antigua and Barbuda Electoral Commission in quick order”.
Information Minister Melville Nicholas told reporters that the move is necessary if Browne decides to call the early general election.
“The Prime Minister would have signalled his intention to have the option of calling early general elections. Accordingly he would have asked the Electoral Office to be in a state of readiness to ensure that ballots are ordered and to ensure all necessary provisions are put in place,” Nicholas said.
The Cabinet statement said that a decision had been taken under The Antigua and Barbuda Constitution Order 1981, to establish an Election Boundaries Commission (EBC) consisting of four commissioners, three of whom are to be named by the Government and one by the Opposition.
It said that the government’s three commissioners are former minister Hilroy Humphreys as chairman with Garfield Christopher and Ivor Ford as members.
Nicholas said that it is going to be left to the Leader of the Opposition in the Parliament to name the fourth member.
“He will be engaged by the Office of the Prime Minister, a letter should be (sent) shortly to invite his nominee to the Electoral Boundaries Commission.”