ST JOHN’S, Monday August 21, 2017 – Antigua and Barbuda’s Prime Minister Gaston Brown has flatly rejected calls for his Government to introduce a fixed date for elections.
The recommendation was tabled by Member of Parliament Joanne Massiah who leads the newly formed Democratic National Alliance (DNA).
Massiah, a former member of the Opposition United Progressive Party (UPP), argued that the election date should not be left to the whim and fancy of a Prime Minister. She made it clear that if her party is elected, it would abandon the practice.
“We want elections to be fixed so that the people will know that the elections are due every five years and in March, April, May, June or whatever the month is elections are due,” Massiah said last week.
However in response, an unmoved Brown said the people of Antigua & Barbuda would have to make the call, and not Massiah.
“Any constitutional change that my government will pursue must be driven by the masses and not by political opponents. Our political opponents do not have the level of maturity and sophistication to pursue constitutional changes in a non-partisan manner, in the interest of the state,” he said.
Prime Minister Browne said this was clearly demonstrated by the political games that were played leading up to the aborted Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) referendum, as he chided the UPP for failing to respond to the government’s request for a bipartisan approach to transition to the regional court headquartered in Trinidad and Tobago.
He labeled his opponent as immature and charged that they “talk the talk but will never walk the walk”.
Massiah had argued that a prime minister having “exclusive determination as to when an election is called” creates a situation in which contesting political parties and candidates do not take the matter of governance seriously, and it leads to the rushed creation of manifestos that are “elusive promises” which do not “thoroughly, purposefully, conscientiously develop any sort of policy initiative suitable…to advance this county and to advance its people”.
“If the Prime Minister is so confident about his government’s performance and so confident about the state of the economy, then we would like him to call the election sooner rather than later,” she said.
Elections in Antigua and Barbuda are constitutionally due in 2019.