Antigua's opposition party says voters offered cash not to vote in March 21 election

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

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ST JOHN'S, Antigua (CMC) — The main opposition United Progressive Party (UPP) Wednesday said voters were being offered cash incentives to relinquish their voter identification cards with a guarantee that the cards would be returned to them after the election on March 21.

“This illegal practice of paying electors to give up their voter identification card is intended to ensure that these persons would be unable to vote in the upcoming election,” the UPP said in a statement.

It has described the issue as “blatant bribery” that is in contravention of the Representation of the People (Amendment) Act 2001.

“This is a corrupt practice under our elections law, but we are not in the least surprised,” said UPP legal advisor, Leon Chaku Symister, adding “it is our intention to take further steps to have law enforcement monitor these violators, with a view to bring them to justice”.

While there are more than 50 candidates representing various political parties contesting the elections that Prime Minister Gaston Browne has called more than a year before the constitutional deadline, political observers here say that the fight is a straight one between the ruling Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP) and the UPP.

In the statement, the UPP said that it “is firm in its position that any person found engaging in the practice of election bribery, will be prosecuted,” warning “if persons are found guilty, they will be punished to the fullest extent of the law.

“It should also be noted that our law punishes anyone who accepts money or any other gifts as an inducement for himself or herself, for voting or refraining from voting, or inducing any other person to vote or refrain from voting.”

The UPP said that it was calling for an immediate end to this “illegal, dastardly practice that threatens our democracy, undermines our electoral practice and makes a mockery of our people”. The UPP said that it is also condemning the offer “of loans to voters in St John's Rural East and St Mary's South to induce them to vote,” adding “the lending of money is also a crime under section 29 (3) of the Act.

“Voters are reminded that voting is their constitutional right. They are strongly advised against becoming victims of …desperate and illegal acts of bribery, which compromise our nation's democratic process,” the UPP said.

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