Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer has blamed the main Antigua Labour Party (ALP) of engineering the delay in the calling of the general elections, saying that it has taken to the courts to tie up the process.
In an interview with the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC), Prime Minister Spencer made reference to the cases before the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court regarding the constituency boundaries and the registration of electors.
Asked whether or not the polls would be held before the end of April, Prime Minister Spencer, who is seeking a third consecutive term in office, said “I don’t want to stick my neck out and say that...but let me put it this way…we would like to have the elections as soon as it is possible and practical”.
But he acknowledged there were still “issues to be resolved with respect to court cases…matters engineered by the opposition and they are they are the ones creating issues that could very well lead to an unacceptable delay in the election”
Prime Minister Spencer said that the government was now “fighting two very critical and important issues in the courts engineered by the opposition” and that while the matter relating o the boundries had been heard during the court sitting in St.Kitts last week, there had been no ruling.
“…..whichever way it goes it simply means that the Electoral Commission that is charged with the responsibility of having free and fair elections in a manner that is transparent will have a job to do thereafter,’ he said.
Spencer said the other matter will be heard when the court meets in St. Lucia on February 19.
“One never knows how long the courts will take to resolve that issue. So if there is any claim out there that we are trying to delay the election that is preposterous.
“The point is the opposition is the one responsible for creating what I consider to be unnecessary challenge do the process and as a result of that if there is any delay at all it is because we have the process tied up in the courts,” he added.
Last week, Prime \minister Spencer told voters that they should regard March 15 as an important date, even as he stopped short of indicating whether or not that this would be the date for the poll.
He told CMC the reference to March 15 was intended to get people sensitised to the fact that an election was imminent “and in the planning process I just wanted to set the stage for the people of Antigua and Barbuda to place certain dates in mind.
“The 15th of March is the date something will certainly happen in Antigua and Barbuda,” he said, adding that the announcement with respect to the actual election day “is still in my back pocket”.
Spencer said he was confident that the electorate would return his United Progressive Party (UPP) back into office, saying “we believe we have kept faith with the people of Antigua and Barbuda and we have done the greatest good for the greatest number since we took office in 2004”.
He said the UPP was also able to convince voters that the island was now on the right track “and we are moving in the right direction”.
He said in this critical period in the island\s history “leadership does matter and the UPP should be given a further opportunity to continue the job…that we had embarked upon since 2004.
“We believe our record speaks for itself,” he said, adding that when the party came into office in 2004 it had inherited “what we consider to be unacceptable situations.
“I think when you pull all those things together, recognising that Antigua and Barbuda comparatively speaking… has done reasonably well, and this is so because of the kind of bold initiatives we have sought to put in place.”
Prime Minister Spencer rubbished plans by the ALP to construct 500 new homes within a short period of time as well as to create 25, 000 new jobs as soon as possible.
“They are the opposition and they have to make promises no matter how outrageous those promises might be. I suppose that is kind of understandable,” he said, adding “this is what we expect obviously they believe the bigger the promise...the better chance they will have and I am satisfied I could count on the people of Antigua and Barbuda to deal with facts as against fiction and to deal with reality”.
Prime Minister Spencer told CMC that he was also not worried by recent opinion polls that have his party trailing, saying “opinion polls…sometimes they right an sometimes they are dead wrong.
“What I can say to you is that opinion polls do have their role to play and clearly if anything it gives you an idea as to what you ought to be looking at, what you ought to be considering. I don’t view the polls as a deciding factor...it provides some information depending on how it is done,.
“I am not daunted at all by the polls I am not ignoring them, but I am not daunted,” he told CMC.