Two weeks ago voters in Barbados gave the incumbent Labor Party (BLP) a second five-year term in general elections, awarding all the seats to labor allowing the Eastern Caribbean island nation to again be run without an elected opposition.
Prime Minister Mia Mottley’s win represented the first general elections held in the 15-nation bloc of nations this year but from all indications, a second could be on the cards in the coming months.
In recent weeks, Prime Minister Gaston Browne has hinted about calling snap general elections in Antigua this year even though he has at least until March of next year to seek a new mandate from voters.
If he carries through with his threat as promised, it would mean he would have followed the lead of Mottley in Barbados when she named Jan. 19 as the date, catching the DLP off guard as it scrambled to name credible candidates.
In doing so, Mottley gave the already ailing Democratic Labor Party (DLP) a mere three weeks to get its campaign organized, raise funds, identify district candidates and get its show on the road. The DLP failed miserably, losing all 30 parliamentary seats to labor for the second consecutive time and ignoring possible dangers of a country being run without an elected opposition.
Taking its cue, however, from the decimation of the DLP in nearby Barbados, the main Antiguan opposition United Progressive Party (UPP) last week made it clear it is getting ready for general elections by officially launching its campaign even though mandatory constitutional moves that predate an election have not yet been made by the governing party.
Party Leader and former Foreign Minister Harold Lovell presided over the launch in the capital last Friday, saying the party wants to be ready for any snap poll. He will be the prime ministerial candidate even though he lost his district seat in 2018. The governing party won 15 of the 17 seats. PM Browne says “I want them to know that it is all 17 seats we are going for in the next elections.”
As the UPP hits the road and prepares for a perceived snap poll, the local pundits are warning the party about using up its political ammunition too early. Burnout and party fatigue could be a factor they say.
“If they have launched now, they have to keep up some momentum by doing some activities. They can’t go too big too fast. Otherwise, I am sure the prime minister, as strategic a thinker as he is, I am sure he will continue to tease and tease maybe into another 8, 12 months, 15 months before he calls an election because he has that advantage,” says University of the West Indies Professor George Brathwaite. “The UPP must be very strategic,” the Observer newspaper quoted him as saying.
Commentator Carlon Knight says the party might be correct to get its act together now rather than be caught napping.
“I think that certainly what we are seeing is a party that is clear that it will not be caught with its pants down like the last time where they were scrambling to get people in place, scrambling to get an election campaign mobilized, scrambling to put all the pieces together because the prime minister called a snap election, for which it was clear in the eyes of the ordinary public that they were not ready,” he said.
Other regional bloc member or associate nations with elections scheduled for this year include Bermuda and Grenada as well as the U.S. Virgin Islands.
There are no fixed date elections in the bloc of mostly former British colonies. Heads of governments can call on a date at almost anytime during their five year terms once they comply with basic constitutional mandates.