Cabinet’s recent decision to investigate the large number of transfers into the St. Peter constituency gives the impression of political interference, says Bishop Rolston Jeffrey, an officer of the Free and Fair Elections League.
Reportedly, Antigua Labour Party scrutineers made a complaint about the increased voter registration in that constituency, now held by MP Asot Michael, who is at odds with the party.
Accordingly, the matter was discussed by the Executive earlier this month and Members decided to mount an investigation.
However, Bishop Jeffrey says, this decision raises doubt and skepticism about the electoral process.
He says there is nothing unusual about voter transfers, adding that there is a period established for claims and objections under the Representation of the People Amendment Act.
Therefore, Jeffrey says, it is improper for the Cabinet to become involved in the electoral process by mounting an investigation.
The Free and Fair Elections League officer points out that any such action is the remit of the Antigua and Barbuda Electoral Commission (ABEC), since what is needed in this regard are transparency, fairness and equity in the process.
Once the Executive becomes embroiled in the matter, then persons will perceive there is a political slant, he says, and the Cabinet will be accused of wanting to micromanage the elections and its processes.
Any issues relating to elections – including transfers and registration – are for ABEC to handle, and the process of claims and objections must be allowed to work, the Bishop cautions. And this must be done fairly and equitably without interference of the political players.
Bishop Jeffrey says that Cabinet should focus on making available to the Commission the resources to properly manage and conduct free and fair elections.
Bishop Jeffery – like MP Michael and United Progressive Party candidate Algernon “Serpent” Watts – believes the new housing project in Paynters could account for the increase in voter registration in St. Peter.