The Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP) is facing a crisis of leadership and confidence with the expected loss in the bi-election in St. Mary’s South (SMS) to the United Progressive Party (UPP) on October 24, 2023. The ABLP candidate, Dwayne George, is expected to be defeated by the UPP’s Kelvin Simon by a significant margin, according to official polling.
This is the second time that the ABLP is loosing SMS since 2014. The UPP had won the seat in the general election held in January 2023 with a comfortable majority of votes over the ABLP. However, the seat became vacant after simon resigned in June 2023, following allegations of misconduct.
The expected bi-election defeat has exposed the deep divisions and discontentment within the ABLP, which has been in power since 2014 under the leadership of Prime Minister Gaston Browne. Many party members and supporters have blamed Browne for the poor performance of the ABLP in SMS, accusing him of mismanaging the campaign and neglecting the constituency. The base of the labour party never came out to support the campaign in SMS.
Some of the criticisms leveled against Browne include:
Failing to address the concerns and needs of the SMS residents. Effectively the campaign was all about Gaston Browne.
Ignoring the advice and suggestions of senior members and local party activists and representatives, who warned him about the growing dissatisfaction and disillusionment with his leadership.
Taking the SMS seat for granted and assuming that the ABLP would win it easily by throwing money around.
Underestimating the strength and popularity of the UPP candidate, Kelvin Simon, who had opened a constituency office in SMS a week before the bi-election and had been actively engaging with the community.
The bi-election has also raised questions about Browne’s ability to lead the ABLP into the next general election, which is due by 2028. Some party insiders have suggested that Browne should step down or face a leadership challenge, as he has lost credibility and trust among both his party and the public.
However, Browne is expected to dismiss these calls and insists that he will “cut the throat” of anyone that dares to challenge him for leadership of the ABLP. Browne told his cabinet colleagues that if any of them dares to challenge him, that he will cut their throat!! Browne remains confident and committed that he could frighten any challenger to stand-down by his threatening and vicious talk to cut throats and “mash-up everything if they try to move me”!!
The ABLP currently holds 9 out of 17 seats in the House of Representatives, while the UPP has 5 seats and one seat is held by an independent member and another by the BPM.
Executive Officer ABLP