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UPP asks Hughes for definitive answer on by-election countdown, and laments absence of ABEC officers at critical time

With the St. Mary’s South by-election expected by the first week of
October 2023, the United Progressive Party (UPP) is seeking
definitive word from the Antigua and Barbuda Electoral Commission
(ABEC) on how the countdown is being calculated.

In a letter dated August 15, the Party’s general-secretary, Senator
Shawn Nicholas, asks the new supervisor of elections, Ian Hughes,
when the constitutional 120-day period will end and how ABEC will
“calculate the maximum of 14 days required … after the writ for an
election in a constituency has been issued.”

The letter ends with the Party asking that Hughes treat the inquiries
as a matter of urgency.

Prior to this communication, attorney Leon Chaku Symister had
raised the matter publicly, several times, asking whether the
Commission planned to exclude weekends and public holiday from
the count.

However, to date, ABEC has offered no answer, forcing citizens to
wonder about the secrecy shrouding the by-election proceedings.
In the meantime, Symister – the UPP spokesman on legal matters –
tells REAL News he is concerned that no preparations for the poll
appear to be underway.

He says he has been reliably informed that a number of
commissioners and senior staff are scheduled to be out of State
between mid-August and September – when, he adds, plans for the
poll ought to be in high gear.

“At a time as crucial as this, when residents are looking for
clarification and voter education from ABEC, half of its officers will
not even be in office,” Symister complains.

“By-elections are not an everyday occurrence in Antigua and
Barbuda. The public – especially the voters in St. Mary’s South –
need to be informed on how processes might run. There will be
first-time voters on the list; who is educating them?” he asks.

He notes that Prime Minister Gaston Browne – who will determine
the by-election date – is currently out of the country, ostensibly on
vacation.

“So I suppose everybody else is relaxing, too,” Symister concludes.

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