Hurricane-hit Antigua and Barbuda to vote early

Sunday, February 25, 2018

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GEORGETOWN, Guyana (AFP) — Antigua and Barbuda, a hurricane-ravaged Caribbean tourist destination, will go to the polls next month more than a year earlier than scheduled, the prime minister said on Saturday.

The two-island nation's parliamentary elections were scheduled for June 2019, but will now be held on March 21, Gaston Browne said.

Voters will select the 17 members of Antigua and Barbuda's House of Representatives, its lower house. Members of the Senate are appointed.

"Our primary focus for calling elections early is not about politics but is about your development. God forbid for there to be change in government," Browne said on radio.

After a 10-year hiatus, voters returned Browne's Labor Party to power during the last ballot in 2014, when he pledged to economically transform the country.

On Saturday, Browne said there had been "significant gains" since and that the government wanted to guard against unpredictability in the investment climate.

He cited cheaper housing for ordinary people, better roads, two Marriott-branded hotels, as well as a new airport on the island of Barbuda, which was battered last year by Hurricane Irma.

On its path through the Caribbean in September, Irma caused "absolute devastation" on Barbuda where up to 30 percent of properties were demolished, and 95 percent damaged, Browne had said at the time.

Labor has ruled Antigua and Barbuda almost continuously since 1949. The country became fully independent from Britain in 1981.

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