Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne says nationals in the twin-island state will go to the polls on March 21 to elect a new government.
Browne, on Saturday night, announced the new date for general elections three and a half years after his incumbent Antigua and Barbuda Labor Party (ABLP) won the last elections.
“We have performed and that’s why we can stand here before you today and ask for your support,” the prime minister told supporters at a major rally entitled “Rebuilding Together-Safer with Labor”.
Browne said he had written to Governor General Rodney Williams on Friday asking him to dissolve parliament on Monday, Feb. 26, according to the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC).
“The following day, Tuesday, Feb. 27, the writ of elections will be issued, and I am giving them 21 days to give them 17-none,” Browne said. “So, the date of the next general election will be Wed., March 21.”
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 Labor 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,” he said. “Consider what you had yesterday, how much you have lost today, and whether you and your children will lose or gain tomorrow.”
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, CMC said.
In that election, it said there were 41 candidates representing five political parties, including the UPP, ABLP, the Antigua and Barbuda True Labor 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, stating 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,” he added. “We can’t allow the destructive forces to stymie the progress we have made.”
He said the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank was projecting 5.6 per cent economic growth for Antigua and Barbuda this year, and added that, in 2019, EC$1.5 billion in investment was anticipated, stating that “what this country needs at this time is stability and continuity.
“To make any change is to reverse all the gains we have made,” Browne said, urging supporters to “turn out in your numbers and to get the vote out on election day”, suggesting, at the same time, that “the UPP has nothing to offer this country.”