Monday, April 7, 2014

Antigua Politics and Elections

I have been visiting with locals, reading Caribbean Times and Antigua Observer online and listening to Observer Radio to learn about the current political situation.  I find it very interesting and thought I would share.  As an outsider I am only getting small bits and pieces by casually asking questions of locals and taking it all in, so by no means should this be considered fact.  These are my observations only.  

It's election time in Antigua and Barbuda.  In fact it's past time.  The election was supposed to be sometime in March but the Prime Minster won't set an election date.  He won't set it because there are/were two pending court cases about redistricting or something along those lines.  I think some legislators went on holiday to Oklahoma to wait....that wasn't here but in the strange country of Texas.  Hee hee.  Anyway - Until that is resolved, he can't set the date.  I believe Antigua law requires the election be held no later than sometime in June.   
UPP party headquarters
In the mean time, the campaigning continues.  There are two major parties.  
United Progressive Party - Upp - royal blue and gold. 
Antigua and Barbuda Labor Party - ABLP - red.
They are identified by color, even when talking to some locals..... "I want the Reds to win."  I thought this was a bit odd.  A fellow cruiser pointed out that this stems from days gone past when perhaps the general population wasn't as educated.  However, they could identify with colors and so that is how they knew who to vote for - the Red party or the Blue Party.
ABLP party headquarters
An astonishing percentage of the population votes.  I had heard this but I have continued to ask locals  "Do a lot of people vote?"  Or "How much of the population will vote?"  They usually look at me like I am crazy and say something to the affect of "Everyone votes!"  I heard this so much that I decided to look it up.  According to the web site Caribbean Elections 2009 - Final report of the Commonwealth Expert Team, 91.19 % of the eligible population voted in 2004 and 80.57 % in 2009.  Omg!  That is amazing and something this country should be very proud of.  The percentage of Americans that vote is embarrassingly low.  It's disgraceful.  When discussing this with a fellow Canadian cruiser, he said their countries percentage was pretty low as well but I don't remember the number he mentioned.  
Proudly sharing her colors
The two major parties have tons of people wearing t-shirts, hats, backpacks and even Converse tennis shoes - blue party only on those.  You also see cars with red or blue party flags on the windows, similar to those I used to have for K-State football games.  There are a few yard signs in the little villages but not many.  Instead both parties take big pieces of plastic in their party color and wraps tree trunks and telephone poles in this colored plastic.  The red party also hangs red plastic fringe (parade float fringe if  you will) diagonally high across the roads from telephone pole to telephone pole in areas.  There have been many support rallies.  
Additionally there are many cars with HUGE loud speakers on top.  These cars drive through the city, villages and country side blasting that party's campaign message.  There are rules about when they can and can't do this - 6am to 6pm only.  I would think that would grow old really fast but when I asked, not too many locals seemed to mind.  They have loud speakers outside their houses and we have 24/7 campaign tv commercials and robo calls.  Hum?  I wonder which is better or worst?
Another propaganda-mobile getting the message out
I asked one local if Barbuda could vote.  He said yes and often that island's votes determine the election.  He said they are neither red or blue so the 1800 people their can make or break an election. However when we were up there, we did see some red and blue party plastic.  Only the red party is up there but there is another party, specific to Barbuda that has an affiliation with the blue party down in Antigua.  
Telephone pole wrapped in UPP party blue - LOVE the street name
The red party was in power for 26 years prior to 2004.  This is the party of VC Bird and his sons for sake of historical classification purposes.  VC Bird is hero in some eyes and villain in others.  In 2004 the blue party won.  They won again in 2009.  Both campaigns are focusing on standard election hot topic issues such as jobs, money, and taxes.  Like much of the Caribbean, there are grumblings of cronyism on both sides. There is a big focus on children and education.  Not the educational fight focus we have in the states over school funding, education standards (or the lowering of those), but instead a resounding embrace that education is extremely important for the improvement of the nation.  Things are heating up and the people want the election date set.  The red party legislators boycotted parliament one day last week in protest of not having an election date.   
UPP party blue telephone poles and ABLP party red fringe - divided town?
An item I discussed recently with some local women was voting day itself.  Once they vote, they dip a finger in black ink to signal "I have voted."  I have seen this in other countries.  Later Tom I were discussing.  Perhaps we should do that in the USA but make it like Ash Wednesday with a black smudge on the forehead thus shaming people into voting.  Hell......go ahead and schedule all elections on Ash Wednesday and kill two birds with one stone.  Ha!  Wait -don't tell Kris Kobach that idea - inside Kansas thing. 

Most locals tell me it's too close to say who will win.  It should be interesting and I plan to follow along online.  


  1. The loudspeakers would drive me nuts, unless they were funny, "The Prime Minister and a Turtle walked in a bar..."
    I'm assuming that television has not taken over their lives as it has in the States. Any observations on this? We are also divided red and blue, but not by the people, by the politicians and the media. Do the colors also represent a political stance, like so called "conservative" or "liberal"? Would be a shame if they did.
    Good to see there aren't any hanging chads, or electronic and networked "voting" machines.

    You are quite the wildcat cub reporter, and actually fair and balanced.

    1. Funny campaign loudspeakers would be awesome. Sort of a Daily Show mobile. Hum? I don't know how many people have TV. Standard of living (moneywise) is different than USA but I just don't know. The parties do have different views - of course...but I don't it corresponds with our Liberal / Conservative.

  2. We were in the Bahamas for the last elections. We were warned by locals to be careful about wearing yellow, red or green shirts, lest we be making a political statement we didn't understand.

    1. Interesting. Sort of like certain places where you have to be careful that you don't wear gang colors.

    2. O yes, 3 years in LA taught us that.

  3. Belize has different names for their parties, but similar: the UDP (red) and the PUP (blue). In one of the local elections when we were there, a woman challenged for mayor of San Pedro as an independent and picked purple as her color (I had to think of you with all your K-State purple!) Of course everyone I knew liked her best, but the dominant party that year (red) won after all. There's a lot of vote buying in Belize, quite openly, much to my surprise. I think they do the fingerprint thing too. All quite interesting to me too!