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Antigua's gov't could fall

Published:Thursday | April 1, 2010 | 12:00 AM

ST JOHN'S, Antigua (CMC):

The Baldwin Spencer administration has lived to face another day after the High Court yesterday put the temporary brakes to an earlier judgment overturning the 2009 general election result.

High Court judge David Harris granted the interim stay to the ruling United Pro-gressive Party (UPP) after his colleague, Justice Louise Blenman, had, in a prior ruling, declared that the election of three government parliamentarians - including Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer in the St John's Rural West constituency - was invalid.

In issuing the ruling, which also affects the results in the constituencies currently held by Tourism Minister John Maginley and Education Minister Jacqui Quinn-Leandro, Blenman referred to breaches in the process of their election. In particular, she said the late opening of the poll on March 12, 2009, affected the outcome in the three disputed constituencies.

Neck-and-neck battle

The decision, which has been welcomed by the Opposition Antigua Labour Party, paves the way for either a series of by-elections or the announcement of fresh general elections.

It also leaves the govern-ment in a 7-7 tie with the Opposition for control of the 17-seat Parliament, even though Attorney General Justin Simon is contending that the Antigua and Barbuda Constitution is very clear on such matters.

"It is up to the governor general and the Constitution makes it very clear how the governor general acts; that first of all the governor general appoints the person who is the leader of the party with the majority of seats in Parliament.

"In the event that there is no such party, then the governor general, acting in her own discretion, will appoint the individual who in her opinion would command the majority of the elected persons in Parliament," he told reporters, following the initial judgment.

Simon also suggested that the matter could be a protracted one, while con-tending that the business of government must proceed in the interim.

With the granting of the stay, the Opposition now has until April 16 to challenge that decision.