Protesters march for election in Antigua and Barbuda
KINGSTON, March 29 (Xinhua/Sun) -- About 100 opposition supporters took to the street in Antigua and Barbuda on Friday, demanding the government name the date for the next election.
Protesters in red T-shirts waving flags advocating "Call de Election Now" and "Time Is Up" marched along the main road outside the Prime Minister's office.
Several key members of the Antigua Labor Party (ALP), the country's main opposition, appeared among the crowd, including candidate Colin James and Samantha Marshall.
The campaign comes a week after ALP leader Gaston Browne asked Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer to call the election or step down.
Spencer's United Progressive Party (UPP) has been in power since 2004. It won the last general election by two seats, with a total of nine to the ALP's seven. The other seat in the 17-member parliament went to the Barbuda's People Movement.
Spencer, who is seeking a third consecutive term in office, has said announcement of the election date is being held up by two court matters initiated by the ALP and for which rulings are being awaited.
The matters concern constituency boundaries and the voter's register, according to the prime minister.
However, James among other protesters is not convinced. He believes the delay is deliberate and is being done in the hopes more UPP supporters will have the chance to register to vote.
"We have credible information that the reason why the Prime Minister is holding back on the election date is because the UPP wants to add more names to the voters list. They are trying to stretch it out as long as possible so they can have time for people to come on the register...," he said.
Marshall weighed in on the issue, saying "it is an undeniable fact that, as I speak, there presently exist lawful boundaries and a lawful register which can be lawfully used for the purpose of free and fair elections."
On Thursday night, Spencer told party supporters he had no problem with the picketing of his office, but maintained he would not be pressured into naming the date for the general election.
"We are in a free and democratic society, so if they want to make a 'pappy show' of themselves they have the freedom so to so," the prime minister said.
Antigua and Barbuda's last general election was held in March 2009. Prior to that, the twin-island nation went to the polls in 2004, the year the ALP suffered its first electoral defeat in nearly 30 years.
The opposition said elections in the county had conventionally taken place five years after the last.
They believe the government should have at least announced the date for the election no later than March 12 this year, which is exactly five years after last election.