Court: No need for fresh elections in Antigua

AP News
Posted: Oct 27, 2010 7:00 PM
Court: No need for fresh elections in Antigua

A Caribbean appeals court ruled Wednesday that Antigua and Barbuda's prime minister and two other ruling-party lawmakers were properly elected last year, apparently ending attempts to call fresh elections.

The Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal overturned an Antigua High Court judge's decision earlier this year voiding March 2009 election results in three constituencies, including Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer's St. John district.

The appeals court, which issued the decision in St. Lucia, has final say on electoral issues in nine former or current British territories in the region.

Spencer declared victory and said "legal recourse in this matter has now been exhausted and the country can and must now return to a state of calm and certainty."

Opposition chief Lester Bird had accused Spencer of being a "squatter" in the government and insisted the ruling lawmakers were improperly elected, largely due to the late start of voting in their districts.

"I am deeply disappointed at the decision of the appeal court," said Bird on Wednesday, adding the ruling has undermined his confidence in the regional justice system.

Dozens of partisans who gathered outside the Labor Party's headquarters in St. John's in anticipation of the ruling were visibly dejected.

Losing three seats would have left Spencer's governing coalition tied with the opposition in Parliament.

Last year's election gave Spencer's party nine of Parliament's 17 seats, down from 12 in the previous assembly. The Barbuda People's Movement, which is allied with Spencer, also won a seat, while the opposition Labor Party got seven.

The country has been struggling with a budget gap worsened by a drop in tourism and the collapse of R. Allen Stanford's Antigua-based financial empire. The Texas financier helped fund the government and was the country's largest private employer until U.S. authorities accused him of defrauding investors in his offshore bank.