ST JOHN’S, Antigua – Prime Minister Gaston Browne Saturday night announced March 21 as the date for fresh elections in Antigua and Barbuda, three and a half years after his ruling Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP) won the last poll.
“We have performed and that’s why we can stand here before you today and ask for your support,” he told supporters at a rally dubbed “Rebuilding Together-Safer with Labour”.
Browne said he had written to governor general Rodney Williams on Friday asking him to dissolve parliament on Monday, February 26.
“The following day, Tuesday, February 27, the writ of elections will be issued and I am giving them 21 days to give them 17-none.
“So the date of the next general election will be Wednesday, March 21,” Browne said to loud cheers from party supporters.
He did not name the date for Nomination Day.
In an immediate reaction, the leader of the main opposition United Progressive Party (UPP) Harold Lovell said the government had failed to deliver on its 2014 promises, “deeply disappointing even the diehard supporters of the Labour Party.
‘”Life is harder than ever after four years of this wicked government,” Lovell, a former minister of finance said, telling supporters that a UPP government would provide a better standard of living for all Antiguans and Barbudans.
“Use this election opportunity to vote wisely. Consider what you had yesterday, how much you have lost today and whether you and your children will lose or gain tomorrow,” Lovell said.
In the 2014 general election, Browne led the ABLP to a convincing 14-3 defeat of the then ruling UPP, led by Baldwin Spencer, who last week formally bowed out of active politics.
In that election, there were 41 candidates representing five political parties, including the UPP, ABLP, the Antigua and Barbuda True Labour Party, the Antigua Barbuda People’s Movement and Missing Link VOP.
“Our primary purpose for calling the election early is not about politics, it is about development,” Browne said, pointing out that in 2018, the government had already earmarked EC$1.5 billion (one EC dollar= US $0.37 cents) for projects.
“We have to protect that. We can’t allow the destructive forces to stymie the progress we have made,” he added, while also indicating that the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank was projecting 5.6 per cent economic growth for Antigua and Barbuda this year.
Browne further pointed out that in 2019, EC$1.5 billion in investment was anticipated, saying “what this country needs at this time is stability and continuity.
“To make any change is to reverse all the gains we have made,” he warned members of the electorate.
Browne strongly urged supporters to “turn out in your numbers and to get the vote out on election day”, while suggesting that “the UPP has nothing to offer this country”.