Elections will be called early, but when?

There’s no need for continued speculation about whether general elections will be called early or whether an announcement will be made in the very near future.

That’s because the prime minister, Gaston Browne, yesterday confirmed to OBSERVER media that although elections are constitutionally due in 2019, “elections will be called before 2019.”

But, he said he is not ready to disclose how soon he plans to call the election – something he has been teasing for several months now saying elections will “come like a thief in the night.”

Late Monday night, an alert began circulating on social media that Browne plans to dissolve parliament on Friday and announce the election date on Saturday. The alert, of unknown origin, also indicated that the election would be held in April this year.

When asked about dissolving Parliament this week and the date for the elections, Browne said, “The speculations about early polls and the potential dissolution of parliament, they are credible.”

He was pressed for more specific information.

“Yes elections will be called before 2019,” he responded, adding that it was very probable elections will be called “within a week or two.”

When asked again whether there was anything he could actually confirm, he said, “The speculations are credible… there’s nothing further at this time, but I am quite sure that in due course you will get the information.”

There are numerous indications that the prime minister may call a general election between now and April.

Those indicators have been present since late 2017. Recently, there have been more signs that the election is looming.

In November, a source told OBSERVER media that the prime minister had told party officials it would be the last Christmas before an election.

The strongest indicator of a possible early election was the ruling Antigua Barbuda Labour Party’s confirmation of its entire slate of candidates before Christmas last year.

By December 9, VC Bird Day, the prime minister announced that the slate was set and it was on that day he confirmed also that MP Asot Michael, who was under investigation in the UK for alleged bribery, would be allowed to contest his seat again. He also revealed that Daryl Matthew was chosen to replace Eustace “Teco” Lake who he said bowed out due to ill health.

Still, in December, the Antigua and Barbuda Electoral Commission rushed towards finalising the decentralisation of voter registration and the training of its staff.

Then in February came what many in the opposition called and election budget. The highlight was that government announced a five percent general salary increase in the public sector, in addition to a host of other benefits to include wiping off the arrears for all residents whose electricity had been disconnected up to December 31, 2017. There’s also an extension to the amnesty for immigrants with gaps in their time and who could not otherwise qualify for citizenship.

Then, an island wide road repair programme began that same month, a programme which the government had promised to get started since 2016.