Ruling party rejects talks of coalition with opposition

ST. JOHN’S, Antigua and Barbuda: The ruling United Progressive Party (UPP) has announced that it has no intention of being part of a coalition government with the opposition Antigua Labour Party (ALP) in light of a recent court ruling that invalidated the election of Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer and two Cabinet ministers.

The prospect was raised by Health Minister Wilmoth Daniel, who said it would be a good step to bring about unity in the nation, following last week’s High Court judgement.

“This country is divided down the middle between the ALP and the UPP,” said Daniel. “If we are going to rescue the nation we, as politicians, have to place country first and unite the people for the common good.

“It’s important for us to put country ahead of party…It’s quite obvious that because of the division of the people, neither the UPP nor the ALP can solve our problems. We must come together. This is the time when we must put aside party and show that we are truly dedicated to country.”

However, the UPP rejected the suggestion in a statement issued on Monday.

“The United Progressive Party has not and is not considering the option of a coalition government. The option of a coalition government with the Antigua Labour Party is not and will never be an option for the United Progressive Party,” said the statement issued by the party’s public relations officer, Senator Joanne Massiah.

Finance Minister Harold Lovell, who also serves as the UPP chairman, said Daniel’s suggestion was a personal one and was not being contemplated by the ruling party.

“I’ve spoken to Mr. Daniel since and I appreciate exactly what he has said and it’s a personal opinion. He’s looking at the current situation and he’s putting out the issue of a possible coalition as one factor. It’s a personal opinion and he has said it to me and I accept that. And it’s a personal opinion that he is entitled to,” said Lovell.

In delivering her ruling last Wednesday, Justice Louise Blenman said the decision was made due to polling day irregularities, particularly the late start of voting in the St. John’s Rural West, St. John’s Rural North and St. George constituencies on March 12, 2009.

The UPP’s lawyers were able to successfully apply for a stay of the ruling and said it would file an appeal.

If the judgement stands, Spencer, Tourism Minister John Maginley and Education Minister Jacqui Quinn-Leandro will have to vacate their seats, allowing for either by-elections or a fresh general election.

“While the party has already decided its legal options, it has made no determination as to its political options, which may include the calling of a general election or a by-election in each of the affected constituencies,” said Massiah.

 

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