ST JOHN’S, Antigua – The Antigua Labour Party (ALP) is exploring the possibility of court action to challenge the electoral amendments that passed the Senate on Monday.
ALP Leader Lester Bird announced the latest move on OBSERVER Radio’s Voice of the People programme yesterday, after his party called off a much-hyped press conference related to the amendments.
“We were supposed to have had a press conference this morning (Tuesday), but we postponed it because we’re getting legal advice from at least two counsels as to whether or not our interpretation and our position on this matter can stand up in court, and if it can stand up in court, we are going to take the matter to court for judicial review or for a declaration,” he told show host Winston Derrick.
The ALP has vociferously opposed the measures since they became public, even staging a Bird-led walkout of the Lower House last week over the matter.
The amendments cover wide ground, including increasing the number of electoral commissioners from five to seven and diluting the power of the supervisor of elections.
Bird contended that instead of diluting the role of the supervisor, a post now held by Lorna Simon, the government should have given her some of the authority held by the commissioners.
“If not made the chairperson, she should have had all of the authority, and I think the fact that we (the Antigua Labour Party) gave all this power to the electoral commissioner, I think we made a mistake then,” the former prime minister said reflecting on when his administration passed the previous Representation of the People Act.
Government has maintained that the changes will help to reduce the possibility of political interference by increasing the diversity of the commissioners and by helping the supervisor to focus on fewer tasks.
Critics like former Electoral Commission Chairman Sir Gerald Watt QC have complained that the Representation of the People (Amendment) Act of 2011 strips away some of the commission’s constitutional safeguards against political influence.