Wednesday, 22 August 2012 02:30
By D Francis
Antigua St. John’s – The secretary of the Free and Fair Elections League (FFEL) said apart from being in the promotional stages for the upcoming National Simulated Elections, a new appointment has been made.
“We have just appointed a chief elections officer to take charge of the general supervision and conduct of the national simulated elections,” George Rick James told Caribarena.com.
“He is Mr. Hezekiah Lewis, a teacher at Princess Margaret School for some nine years. We are very confident with this choice; it’s basically a position similar to that of Supervisor of Elections.”
Lewis, who has no political ambitions, assured: “We are committed to ensure that it comes off well. From the feedback we are getting and I think so personally, our leadership has not been all that outstanding and I think people are a bit ‘fuzzy’ on which direction they want to take so I am hoping that people will come out and participate.
“It would be an indication that they recognise how important this period in the history of the country is…I mean, we have to realise what is at stake, the character of the Antiguan and Barbudan people is strong and the issues we are facing can determine the kind of future for generations to come.”
Earlier this month, James announced plans to conduct the national simulation exercise due to widespread public perception that there is no marked difference between the governing United Progressive Party (UPP) and the opposition Antigua Labour Party (ALP).
James explained: “Many people have vowed not to vote at the next general elections, and as a result of this threat, we have decided to conduct this exercise to try and inspire renewed interest in the electoral process and to test the opinion of registered voters.”
The options on the ballot paper will be ALP, UPP, New Party and Independent.
He added: “The ballot will be conducted in secret just as the real election and any form of official picture ID will be accepted. The polling stations will be set up at the popular supermarkets. No matter what constituency you are from, you will able to vote at any of the four polling stations that will be set up at each supermarket. At each polling station, they will be equipped to deal with a voter regardless of which constituency he/she is from.”
Asked about his views about the weight of the no-voting claims being made by some members of the public thus far, he said: “It would be very dangerous for our democracy if people go ahead with the threat and they don’t vote. If the polls in an official general elections show less than 50 per cent for any government elected they can hardly claim legitimacy in the eyes of the international community, so we are trying to stimulate interest. We can’t take that chance. From this exercise we will have an indication of how voters are really thinking generally and the body in charge of the general elections will learn some useful lessons.”
The polls will open on 6th of September from 8 am – 6 pm every Thursday until September 27th when the polls will close and the ballots taken to an official area to be counted in front of the public.
James said the league is in the process of recruiting polling clerks and persons interested can contact 462-9030.
This month marks the 21st anniversary of the FFEL, a watchdog organisation designed to ensure that the Voters List is one of integrity and can withstand any scrutiny. It also aims to educate the public and to help to clarify the laws relating to the whole electoral process.