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Antigua-Barbuda opposition rejects blame for elections delay
Published on February 21, 2014 Email To Friend    Print Version

By Caribbean News Now contributor

ST JOHN’S, Antigua -- The opposition Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP) has rejected statements made by Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer, claiming that his inability to hold general elections on or before March 12, 2014, when his five-year term expires, is the fault of the ABLP.

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Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer
Spencer claimed that two court cases, brought by the ABLP, challenging his decisions have “tied up the process” and thereby delayed the general elections to a date unknown even to him.

“The ABLP regards this claim by Mr Spencer that the ABLP is to blame as untruthful, because it misrepresents the facts. It also demonstrates the inability of the political leader to plan and to execute, taking into account the timelines of the law under which he acted. These inabilities and the untruthfulness of the political leader demonstrate why the polls all show Mr Spencer’s United Progressive Party (UPP) as losing the 2014 general elections when they are called,” the ABLP said in a statement.

According to the opposition, the ruling UPP, led by Spencer, made two mistakes last year that have resulted in delays which are of Spencer’s making. The outgoing prime minister decided: (1) To commence a total re-registration of voters on September 30, 2013, to November 4, 2013; and (2) To adopt a June 28, 2013, Boundaries Commission Report that alters constituencies’ boundaries.

The ABLP noted that nothing has been ordered by any court that would prevent Spencer from moving forward with his re-registration process. The re-registration of voters will require four steps lasting more than twelve weeks, before readiness of the electoral registers for elections can be reached.

Should the appeals court, sitting in St. Lucia on February 18 and 19, 2014, rule in favour of the ABLP, the confusion that is likely to follow will take the country past May 2014 before registers are completed under law.

“Mr Spencer ought to have started earlier and sought the consensus of the ABLP. He chose to be combative and so he can only blame himself,” the ABLP said.

Spencer also chose to establish a Boundaries Commission in February 2012 and, since there were no consultations with “interested parties”, a High Court injunction prevented the Boundaries Commission Report from moving forward.

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ABLP Leader Gaston Browne
After the decisions in the High Court by Judge Cottle, offers to settle made by the leader of the ABLP, Gaston Browne, in the hopes of achieving a compromise, were rejected by Spencer and the Commission.

“Hence, the court has become the final arbiter. Mr Spencer delayed, refused to compromise, compelled the choice of the courts, and therefore cannot lay the blame at the feet of the ABLP,” the party said.

According to the ABLP, it has been so arranged that more than 6,000 fewer voters are registered following the re-registration process; and the boundaries of 15 constituencies on Antigua have been so drawn as to give the UPP an advantage. These issues are before the appeals court when Spencer made his disputed comments.
 
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