ST JOHN’S, Antigua, Wednesday March 21, 2018 – Antiguans and Barbudans are voting in historic general elections today.
A record 53 candidates – from seven political parties and also including five independents – are competing for 17 seats in Parliament. It’s also the first time Barbudans will vote not on the sister isle, but on the mainland, following a decision by the Antigua and Barbuda Electoral Commission (ABEC) – which was endorsed by the court last week – that Barbuda, which was devastated by Hurricane Irma last September, could not facilitate voting.
Prime Minister Gaston Browne is confident his Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP will follow the lead of the New National Party in Grenada last week and win all the seats.
However, Harold Lovell, who is leading the main opposition United Progressive Party (UPP) into an election for the first time, is optimistic about his party taking over government.
Polls opened at 6 a.m. and will close at 6 p.m., but official results are not expected until tomorrow, according to ABEC chairman Nathaniel ‘Paddy’ James, because of the tedious system of ballot counting.
He said ABEC had made representation to Cabinet to change the laws to allow for a speedier counting of ballots, but so far it had been unsuccessful in convincing the authorities to go that route.
Currently, istead of counting being done at each polling station at the close of the polls – as is the case in most other countries in the Western Hemisphere – each box from each polling station is transported to a counting location in each constituency where they are then counted.
James says ABEC has appealed for change.
“This matter has been raised at the highest level – the Cabinet level. It is a policy decision so far, at this point in time, that things remain as [they are]….From the Electoral Commission’s standpoint, we would like to have it changed, but then again administration of elections in Antigua and Barbuda is still statutory so it means that Parliament would have to agree,” he said on ABS Television last night.
“It matters not how prudent it appears to you, members of the public, and the electoral commission, it is the Parliament of Antigua and Barbuda [that has] to make that judgement call.”
But James expressed the hope that this matter would be given consideration during the life of the next Parliament.
There are more than 51,000 people registered to vote in today’s elections.