Antigua Labour Party returns to power after 10-year hiatus

alp-support-antiguaPeter Richards

ST. JOHN’S, Antigua, Friday June 13, 2014, CMC – Supporters of the Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party (ALP) celebrated in the streets of the capital, the return of the party to government after a 10-year hiatus and in the process inflicted a heavy defeat on the United Progressive Party (UPP) of outgoing prime minister Baldwin Spencer.

With car horns blaring, music trucks providing the tunes for the impromptu street celebrations, the supporters clad in red jerseys and waving flags, celebrated the landslide victory of the ALP that in 2004 was swept out of office by the UPP.

“To God be the Glory. Today is the dawn of a new day,” said Gaston Browne, the 47 year-old former banker and businessman, who at midday (local time) will be sworn in as the island’s fourth prime minister since it attained political independence from Britain in 1981.

The ALP won 14 of the 17 seats that were at stake in the elections with Spencer, his one-time deputy, Willmoth S. Daniel  and newcomer Joanne M. Massiah  preventing  total demolition.

The Antigua and Barbuda Electoral Commission provided the preliminary results in the early hours of Friday and political observers say they expect the turn out to be higher than the 90 per cent registered in 2004.

Browne, who paid glowing tribute to his “mentally ill” mother during his radio and television broadcast early Friday, agreed to the call for a public holiday to celebrate the victory but said after he and Steadroy Benjami, the new attorney general, take the oath of office, he would meet with new investors as well as the National Security Council.

“The work has just begun.  The country is in dire straits and requires the effort of all, the entire population to join our efforts to move forward.  We must remain a strong united nation in order for us to achieve our goal of rebuilding the nation,” he said.

Brown had campaigned on a need to turn around a stagnant economy, high unemployment and crime and told the nation “the Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party has set an impressive vision for Antigua and Barbuda to transform it into an economic powerhouse.

“The country is in dire straits and we must remain hopeful for a bright future.  We have the capacity to achieve that vision to make Antigua and Barbuda the envy of the Caribbean.  We have the capacity to create full employment.  We have the capacity to attract investment to grow this country,” he added.

He promised to remain the “servant leader” of the people saying “I will lead a team that will be the servants of the people and I will be a Prime Minister who is not divorced from the people but dedicated to serve.

“I say to every Antiguan and Barbudan that we will honour our commitment to you.  We will not betray your trust.  We pledge to work in your interest.  We are the people’s hope and aspirations.  We will hit the road running.

“We ask you to stand with us.  Lend us your support in transforming Antigua and Barbuda into an all-inclusive society.  We must embrace everyone going forward.  We must do so to transform Antigua and Barbuda into an economic powerhouse.  As your Servant Leader, this is my promise,” Browne said.

Among those victorious at the polls were former prime minister Lester Bird, who at 78, was the oldest candidate and his former cabinet colleagues Robin Yearwood, Molwyn M. Joseph and Asot Michael.

Earlier, Spencer ha conceded defeat soon as t became apparent that the ALP would sweep the polls.

“I wish to also say to the people of Antigua and Barbuda that the democratic process in our nation is alive and that the people of Antigua and Barbuda, the electorate of this country would have made a statement they would have spoken in clear terms, they would have made a choice.”

Spencer, 63, who was seeking an unprecedented third consecutive term in office, said that he has to “accept that the verdict of the people of Antigua and Barbuda is one which says that they are willing and desirous of having the Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party governing this country at this time”.

Among the early casualties are Finance Minister Harold Lovell and Tourism Minister John Maginley and  Education Minister Dr. Jacqui Quinn-Leandro

In his address, Prime Minister Spencer said the reality of the situation is that “the people of this country would have spoken and they would have made their decision.

“That decision has to be accepted and I have accepted the verdict of the people of Antigua and Barbuda at this time. I wish the new government well and I say so with all sincerity because as far as I am concerned what is important now is for us to come together as a nation, let the healing begin almost instantly and bring this country together in the interest of the future of Antigua and Barbuda,” he added.

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