After 10 years in power, Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer and his United Progressive Party (UPP) conceded defeat to Gaston Browne of the Antigua and Barbuda Labor Party (ALP) in Thursday’s general election.
Spencer, 65, had been seeking an unprecedented third consecutive five-year term in office in the twin-island eastern Caribbean nation, but Browne, 47, won a convincing victory, with the ALP looking set to win 15 of 17 parliamentary seats contested in the election.
In a radio and television broadcast, Browne described the victory as “one for you the people” and said he was “very humbled by the mandate” given to his party.
Having campaigned on turning around a stagnant economy, high unemployment and crime, Browne said he was confident of bringing full employment to the country as well as being able to attract unparalleled investments. “We will transform this country into an economic powerhouse,” Browne pledged, although he acknowledged that “the reality is that this country is in dire straits” and “there will be no quick fixes.”
Spencer said that he “accepted the verdict of the people of Antigua and Barbuda at this time” and revealed that he had privately spoken to Browne to concede defeat.
“I wish the new government well and I say so with all sincerity because as far as I’m concerned, what is important now is for us to come together as a nation. Let the healing begin almost instantly and bring the country together in the interests of Antigua and Barbuda,” Spencer said. “I believe all of us as leaders owe it to the people of this country.”
The outgoing prime minister added that his administration “had done the best we could have done,” and that “history will certainly prove that the United Progressive Party under the circumstances would have performed reasonably well.”
Like many Caribbean countries, Antigua’s tourism-dependent economy struggled during the global recession, while the nation’s financial problems were compounded after the largest private employer, U.S. citizen Allen Stanford, was arrested in 2009 and later convicted of defrauding investors through his offshore bank.
However, Antigua’s stimulus program was beginning to pay dividends by the end of last year, with the construction sector in particular showing signs of growth.