Last lap campaigning ahead of Antigua March 21 polls

Saturday, March 17, 2018

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ST JOHN'S, Antigua (CMC) — Antigua and Barbuda political parties enter the final weekend of campaigning for the March 21 general elections staging rallies in a bid to woe undecided voters.

While there are seven political parties and five independents vying for control of the 17-seat Parliament, political observers say the contest is a straight fight between the ruling Antigua and Barbuda labour Party (ABLP) and the main opposition United Progressive Party (UPP).

Prime Minister Gaston Browne, who is leading the ABLP into a second general election, is promising to follow his prime ministerial colleague in Grenada, Dr Keith Mitchell, where he led his New National party (NNP) to a complete rout of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) by winning all 15 seats.

“I am quite sure the results here in Antigua and Barbuda will be just as exciting, as we say 17 none,” Browne said, “adding “I am looking forward to joining him very shortly to celebrate a 17 none here in Antigua and Barbuda”.

But the UPP, which governed this country for 10 years before being ousted in 2014, is not perturbed and is instead urging supporters to put an end to the corruption, unfulfilled promises of the Browne administration.

“Antiguans and Barbudans your lives and your livelihood and this country's future are in your hands. On the left there is hopelessness. On the right there is hope, happiness, opportunity, prosperity and empowerment,” said the UPP leader, Harold Lovell, a former finance minister, who is leading the party into a general election for the first time.

In the 2014 general election, the ABLP won 14 of the 17 seats with the remainder going to the UPP.

Browne called the election more than a year ahead of the constitutional deadline, telling supporters his administration wanted to safeguard billions of dollars in new investments to come to the country in the next few years.

But Lovell said this is not the case.

“Despite his penchant for tossing around numbers, the truth that all of us – outside of the Browne circle – know and live is that life is harder than ever after nearly four years of this wicked government,” he added.

The leader of the Democratic National Alliance (DNA), Joanne Messiah, the former UPP legislator, who is leading her recently formed party into the general election, has also described the government's performance as one of epic failure, dismissing Browne's arguments as a “ruse…a political gamble… by a desperate PM who is devoid of ideas regarding how to jump start a failing economy using creative ways without selling out our country and our people.

“The economy continues to underperform and this fact has a direct correlation on employment and investment (local and foreign). Added to this is the fact that government's principal revenue earner, the Citizenship by Investment Programme, has virtually dried up,” she added.

There has been no national debate among the leaders heading into the general election, but on Friday, in a prelude perhaps to what the final days of campaign could look like, both Browne and Lovell, appeared on a radio programme here in an 18-minute long no- holds-barred exchange.

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