ST JOHN’S, Antigua – As the timeline for general elections gets shorter, the Antigua & Barbuda Electoral Commission (ABEC) has had to do another about face, this time on its position to have a super centre at which all electors would register.
Two weeks ago, Chairman of ABEC Juno Samuel said the first wave of registration would take place at Multipurpose Centre at Perry Bay, for a month, and thereafter registration would continue in the 17 constituencies.
There was insistence even with both parties – the ruling United Progressive Party (UPP) less vociferously than the main opposition Antigua Labour Party (ALP) – opposing the decision.
On Thursday, the political parties were informed that the decision was rescinded and registration will only take place in the constituencies, starting September 30. The parties also received copies of the registration centres.
Apparently, as it was with the last climb down concerning the process leading to re-registration, the law had the final say.
Legal Counsel to ABEC Patricia Simon Forde told OBSERVER media, “I was consulted on the issue of the super centre and I said it was not possible under the current legislation. The existing legislation makes no provision for that.”
Even with the announced change, Political Leader of the ALP Gaston Browne is still dissatisfied with the time available for re-registration.
“There is not sufficient time to have the optimal amount of potential electors registered going into the 2014 polls,” Browne said.
He said there needs to be at least three and as many as five registration lists.
His newest contention is that after the first wave of registration ends on October 25, validation of the list will take 45 days.
“The completed list will not be available before end of December. If the prime minister calls the election in January, he will have to use the December list. What will happen, there will only be one ratified list. Anyone who does not register between September 30 and October 25 will find themselves ineligible to vote in 2014,” Browne said.
For chairman of the UPP, timing is not an issue. Leon Chaku Symister said the issue at hand is confidence in ABEC to get the job done.
“Our position is we have confidence in the Electoral Commission’s ability to advance its objective. As a country we have entrusted a commission with a different make-up and broader representation than the former commission to carry out this important duty of managing the electoral process.
“Although we ought to be concerned about how they carry out their duties, we must not hesitate to support the commission in its endeavour to conduct and manage free and fair elections in our state,” Symister said.
The commission, Symister said, has indicated it is able to register 2,000 electors daily. He averages that at that, rate in 25 days, ABEC will be able to register 50,000 electors.
The chairman also said that even after the first preliminary list, there will be continuous registration and therefore all who desire to will have more than enough time to get on to the December list.
(More in today’s Daily OBSERVER)