Thomas allegedly tipped to chair ABEC, but UPP says recent resignations make him unsuitable for the job

Attorney and Ambassador to the Czech Republic Arthur Thomas has
been tipped by Prime Minister Gaston Browne to assume the
chairmanship of the Antigua and Barbuda Electoral Commission
(ABEC), sources tell REAL News.

Reportedly, the announcement of Thomas’ installation is supposed
to follow the burial of ABEC’s late chairman, John Jarvis, the sources

The United Progressive Party (UPP) leadership says the Party, on
principle, does not support this selection – even as it recognizes the
prime minister’s discretion.

Pointing to his recent and very public troubles, arising from his
association with cryptocurrency giant FTX and its convicted
founder, Sam Bankman-Fried, the UPP says Thomas is not the man
for the ABEC position.

“If his connection to these entities was enough for him to resign as
chairman of the Caribbean Union Bank (CUB) and of the Eastern
Caribbean Securities Regulatory Commission, why should he head
the body charged with safeguarding the practice of fair elections?”
the Party asks.

“It is a slap in the face of democracy,” the UPP adds.
Thomas is a lawyer and partner in a well-known law firm.
However, says a fellow attorney, “The chairman of ABEC must be
free of any suspicion, real or imagined, of clouded integrity.
“If [Thomas] had to leave other entities where his integrity has been
under a cloud, then, certainly, the same cloud hangs over his head if
he is [placed] over an institution that requires unfettered integrity,”
the attorney points out.

“The people need to have confidence in ABEC,” he says.
The Electoral Commission is already being viewed with suspicion by
many residents after its handling of the 2023 General Election.
It was only last week that a legal challenge to ABEC and to the
supervisor of elections had its first hearing in the High Court.
The suit was brought by UPP caretaker Alister Thomas, whose
request for a copy of the photo list of electors was refused.

Prior to that, ABEC came in for strong criticism, last General
Election, for the significant number of “spoiled votes” it registered in
the tiny constituency of St. Phillip’s South, owing to the absence of
the official stamp on the ballots.

The Commission also took a beating for its silence in the face of a
confession by Prime Minister Gaston Browne: that voters in City
West had deliberately been transferred into other constituencies
where Antigua Labour Party candidates needed help.

Most recently, Browne, himself, prompted further discomfort among
the electorate when he announced a “renewal” of voter-
identification cards – rather than a national re-registration exercise
which requires proof of address – when most of the current cards
expire in a few months.

“Given the accusations of collusion with the governing party and its
failure to allay the fears of many people – including the Free & Fair
Elections League – the likely appointment of Thomas as ABEC
chairman is extremely troubling,” the UPP concludes.