Vote or Die!!!
Haven’t done a post on (electoral) politics since the last U.S. presidential election showdown between Mitt the Slick and Obama Osama.
Ok, it’s been a heavy-political season within the twin-island state of Antigua and Barbuda.
Politics in the Caribbean is real serious business on every level!
Everyone eats, breathes and shits politics!
Furthermore, virtually everyone participates in some form or fashion: from the elderly down to the toddlers donned in their political-party paraphernalia.
In the Caribbean islands on a whole, politics, especially during an election year, is the greatest spectacle around which usually overshadows every other activity including sports, recreation and entertainment.
It draws a larger following than Basketball, Cricket and Soccer combined [goes to show how politically conscious people are in these parts]!
We take our elections very seriously [“We” being that I was born here and vote here]. So much so that it’s customary for families, friends and marriages to be severed due to political affiliations, partisanship and which way you cast your vote (for which party).
As in the United States where you have the Democrat and Republican parties, there are only 2 major-viable political parties in Antigua and Barbuda: The Antigua and Barbuda Labor Party (ABLP), and The United Progressive Party (UPP).
The independent candidates as expected, are NOT electable nor viable.
In the Caribbean however, unlike the USA, there is no recognized and established Conservative, Liberal, Libertarian, Progressive, etc.
However, if you were to poll all registered voters, they will likely claim to be (social and fiscal) Conservatives. Also note; the Caribbean is an ULTRA Conservative region which makes the Conservative GOP and Tea Party in America look like wannabes. 😯
Now that’s saying a lot!!!!
Liberalism and most liberal ideas, are widely seen as taboo, hedonistic, ungodly and immoral.
For instance, abortion is generally FROWNED upon in the Caribbean and it is a cause for social shame, whereas a girl who had undergone an abortion, is likely to have hid such undertaking from her peers and parents as to avoid a devastating-social stigma which generally follows someone who had aborted a fetus.
Therefore, abortions are pretty much done through the proverbial back door and undercover although a planned parenthood had set up shop a year or so ago.
Another Liberal idea and agenda which is COMPLETELY shunned in Antigua and Barbuda (and the wider Caribbean region), is gay rights, gay acceptance and gay marriage.
A politician in these parts who dares to go public in support of gays, or merely just to verbally recognize their existence (in a positive light), will have committed political suicide and risk being assassinated in some of the more volatile islands such as Jamaica, Trinidad and Guyana [which is in South America, but recognizes itself as an unofficial member of the Caribbean states].
Basically; Gays and Lesbians are NOT recognized by the law, neither society, nor are they treated as having existed but rather a mythical taboo and a shame to society which most either steer clear of (physically) or refuse to acknowledge verbally.
On a further note, gay sex aka buggery, is a crime in the Caribbean and is tantamount to rape…hence the name “Buggery” which means rape!!! There is no such thing as consensual-gay sex between 2 men!!! You can be tossed in prison even for mere speculation of partaking in homosexual sex. It is a serious crime in these parts. So much so that if a neighbor even reports you to the authorities as having gay sex (male on male), you can be arrested, especially so if there are minors living in the household.
Homosexual men generally stay in the closet out of fear of being killed or jailed.
As you would’ve guessed: hate crimes against gays doesn’t exist.
Lesbianism however, as expected, is way more tolerable in Antigua and Barbuda and the wider Caribbean in spite of the ULTRA-Christian Conservative societies which dominate.
It’s commonplace to spot 2 females making out heavily in a bar or nightclub. This is fairly accepted socially by the youths (although frowned upon by the elderly).
On the political end, interestingly though, if you were to poll every single voting adult in the region as to whether he or she identifies with the Republicans or Democrats of the United States, it’s almost guaranteed that he-she would say Democrats.
Quite confusing and contradicting since Democrats identify with Liberals while folks in the Caribbean are staunch Conservatives who contradict core to novel Liberal ideas.
It’s a very perplexing situation to say the least.
The main reason for this sort of rigid Conservatism in the Caribbean is due to the Christian Right aka the Christian Counsel [they basically regulate laws and dictate what should be the social norm].
They have the most sway and say politically and socially, which means they can get a nightclub shut down if they feel that the music is too vulgar [they’ve done this many times].
No politician dares offend or questions the Christian-Conservative Right Wing lest he be unelected or crazy!
Because of the Christian Right, muslim candidates, or persons of other faiths, are generally impossible to get elected to parliament (on the exception of Trinidad and Guyana which have large Muslim and Hindu population).
For a non-Christian, Atheist or Agnostic (as I am) to get nominated, let alone elected to anything, he’d probably have to front as a Christian, essentially concealing his religious beliefs…which brings his integrity into question at the end of the day if he does take that route.
Again, it gets trickier in that the Christian Right virtually runs the legislature and regulates laws and social norms, yet prostitution in Antigua and Barbuda isn’t an offense, and brothels, whore-houses and sex-bars are on public display once the sun sets. So grave contradiction again in what gets regulated and why.
Ok, back to election-season politics!
In Antigua and Barbuda, as in majority of the other islands of the Caribbean, we use the “Parliamentary” system of governance as they do in the United Kingdom and a whole host of other countries around the globe.
Hence, there’s no president nor presidential race in our elections.
We have a “Prime Minister” as the head of state.
This is totally different than having a president, although when you think about it; the USA is really set up like a prime-ministerial system like what we have here (in theory).
The president is really just a front-man and sometimes mouthpiece for Congress who have the real say and sway in U.S. politics, policies and law making.
Therefore, America having an elected president, is really just a bogus show when in fact, they use a quasi-parliamentary system as we do here, in Canada and the U.K.
Anyway, so “Prime Minister” it is and not president.
The reason the head of state is called a “Prime” minister, is because he is the “Prime” or “Primary” minister among other ministers within his political party or cabinet. So he’s not the “sole” minister but the “prime” minister among ministers (plural).
Hence, when it comes to general elections here, and in any other country which has a parliamentary-style system, we don’t elect just 1 candidate or 1 person but it’s broken down within constituencies/districts/parishes.
It’s similar to congressional, gubernatorial or district elections in America in the sense that each state has its own and separate elections.
In the Caribbean or the parliamentary system of government, the general elections (which is held every 5 years and not 4) are a (s)election of numerous candidates [would-be ministers] who would have made up the government once they are elected majority by winning the most seats for their party.
My American audience might be very baffled at this point!
Basically, the general election isn’t between 2 candidates or 2 persons, but rather party against party for who can win the most vacant seats for his or her party. So it’s a team of guys (and gals) against another team.
The party which gets the most candidates elected, essentially wins…but not quite. 😯
In Antigua and Barbuda for instance [my birthplace], in my district/constituency, the candidate vying for that vacant seat- for my party [ABLP]- is the Senator Arthur Nibbs, hence the following photos I’d taken of billboards and posters all around my town.
I took this in my area the other day @ a store front.
I took this the other night @ a public function for the party
My family (maternal and paternal) are also long-time staunch supporters of the ABLP. So party politics and partisanship is very deeply rooted within families.
My grandmother’s also die-hard 😉
The thing is though, when it comes to parliamentary elections in order to decide which party ultimately wins the government [ABLP or UPP in our case] , it depends on how many seats are won and how many seats that the party had won already from previous elections.
To make it simpler: majority does win!
Right now as it stands, there are 17 vacant seats up for grabs.
Whichever of the 2 parties wins the most of those 17 vacant seats on June 12th, then that party ultimately wins the general election. Not 1 person wins [as in a presidency] but 1 party/team of candidates wins [parliamentary].
The Antigua and Barbuda Labor Party [ABLP], my party, is currently in opposition and has been for the past 10 years (2 election cycles).
We’re looking to retake the government from the United Progressive Party [UPP] who has wrecked the twin-island nation over the past 10 years [sounds partisan as fuck…I know].
The UPP candidates who controls the government after winning elections in 2004 and 2009
General elections are held every 5 years opposed to 4 as in the USA.
Now the interesting thing is, whichever party wins the most of the 17 vacant seats, in effect winning the election, the leader of that party, by default, becomes the “Prime”/main minister as the head of state or head of government.
He isn’t elected head of state/prime minister by the voters, but his party instead, after they would have won the elections, selects him to become the “prime/main” minister.
Sounds complex to someone who is used to the simplified-presidential election system.
Having grown up and lived in the United States of America my entire life, I too was puzzled by the parliamentary-style system when I first returned home some years ago.
A general election as in the USA is very simple: 2 candidates only in which to vote for, irrespective of where you are located as far as state is concerned.
In Antigua and Barbuda, there are (usually) 34 candidates representing the 2 major parties [17 candidates per party], with 2 candidates representing each of the 17 districts/constituencies [2 candidates consisted of 1 incumbent and 1 opposition].
When each district will have voted for their individual-lone candidate, the votes nationwide are tallied up to then decide through a computation system, which party won most of the 17 seats [so whoever wins 9 or more seats, pretty much wins].
As for my party [ABLP] which is in opposition right now, the 17 candidates are depicted in the below image [1 female]:
Wondering why “Labor” is spelled “Labour”? The system here is modeled of the British’s, where words such as color and labor are spelled as colour and labour, etc. #JustSaying
Since election is a grand spectacle around these parts, leading up to it, both parties usually throw mega rallies, concerts, functions and socials in show of force and solidarity.
It’s like your team against mines which creates a super-interesting atmosphere unlike humdrum-funeral procession like elections held in other parts of the world.
These are some photos from around my district over the weekend and other districts also.
Our slogan overall for 2014 is Ready To Rebuild!
UPP (The United Progressive Party) has wrecked the country for the past 10 years!
This girl stopped me to take her pic then bluetooth it to my phone
Socialkenny out to represent!
Custom made LOL
ABLP Political rally on the move
ABLP Marching on the current government (UPP) for trying to stall the elections…
A political concert over the weekend
The leader of the party and would-be next Prime Minister, Gaston Brown
Asot Mika’el, a Lebanese parliamentarian & deputy leader of ABLP, vying for his now vacant seat
Asot Mika’el, 1 of quite a few Lebanese-Syrian. parliamentarians and Senators in Antigua and Barbuda
Motorcading through the district of St. Georges in support of Dean Jonas, 1 of our 17 candidates
Finally, while cruising through the rural areas, I had to get a snap of this fellow-party supporter chick just for the record.
All in all, I just hope that the shady tactics of the government (UPP) won’t rob us of a victory which pollsters have been predicting a win for us (ABLP).
The MP (Minister of Parliament), Asot Mika-‘el [a Lebanese who’d immigrated to Antigua some decades ago], had spoken to that issue in parliament recently, as far as the government attempting to steal the elections as they did in 2009.
Samantha Marshall, the lone female candidate for the ABLP at the Launching of the party’s manifesto.
Some rhetoric by the prime minister, Baldwin Spencer (of the UPP).