ST JOHN’S, Antigua – How long is too long to wait to safeguard democracy? That’s the question Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer hinted at when he addressed the nation last night on the vexing matter of the ongoing voter re-registration.
The process that began on September 30 has been fraught with problems, including a legal challenge by the main opposition Antigua Labour Party (ALP), equipment and internet failure, power outages, protracted waits exceeding a regular workday, lack of information and even severe criticism from a minister of government.
PM Spencer did not reference any of the issues specifically, instead calling the difficulties “hiccups” and “teething problems.” He then encouraged eligible voters to take care to exercise their franchise.
Spencer said even after adult suffrage in 1951, all the way to the poll of 1999, “elections were conducted within an environment which was neither free nor fair.”
He also referenced countries like Lebanon and Saudi Arabia, where there is only partial suffrage, and he asked residents of Antigua & Barbuda not to squander their rights.
“I make reference to these episodes in history if only to emphasise the point that this feature of our life which we take for granted – the right to vote – which we so readily enjoy in Antigua & Barbuda should not be taken lightly nor should it be trivialised,” Spencer said.
“It is a sacred and onerous responsibility which we should all embrace, respect and cherish especially when taken within the context of the current state of uneasiness and instability which threaten so many democratically elected governments worldwide,” the prime minister said.
Mass registration will end on October 25, although the ALP has asked the courts to grant an injunction to stop the process until a ruling is made on an original motion.
(More in today’s Daily OBSERVER)