47 year old Gaston Browne is due to be sworn in today as the new Prime Minister after he led his Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party (ALP) to a resounding victory in Thursday’s general elections which spelt a crushing defeat for the Baldwin Spencer led United Progressive Party (UPP).
Preliminary indications were that the ALP captured 15 of the 17 seats at stake.
In accepting the strong mandate of the people, Browne pledged to make the island an economic powerhouse in the Caribbean during his first term in office.
Browne also welcomed an offer by outgoing prime minister Spencer, who has conceded defeat, to work with the new administration for the good of Antigua and Barbuda.
“It is evident that the people have spoken and they have spoken resoundingly,” Browne said in a radio and television broadcast, adding that he was “very humbled by the mandate” given to his party.
But he reminded the nation that “the work has just begun”, adding, “ the reality is that this country is in dire straits and would require the efforts of the entire nation”.
Browne described the victory as “one for you the people”, saying he was determined to implement policies and measures that would make Antigua and Barbuda an economic powerhouse in the Caribbean.
“We have actually set an impressive vision for this country,” he said.
“I remain hopeful and very optimistic about the future of the Antigua and Barbuda. I want us to work towards the vision and to make Antigua and Barbuda the envy of the other countries in the world,” said Browne, who will be sworn as the country’s fourth prime minister later Friday by Governor General Louise Lake-Tack.
Attorney Steadroy “Cutie” Benjamin is also due to take the oath of office as the Attorney General at the ceremony scheduled for midday.
Browne, who had campaigned on turning around a stagnant economy, high unemployment and crime, said he was confident of bringing full employment to the country as well as being able to attract unparalleled investments even as he warned “there will be no quick fixes” and reminded citizens it would take time to get out of the current situation.
“The work will start from today and not tomorrow,” he said, adding he would remain a “servant leader to the people”.
He said the victory “itself actually speaks volume,” saying “ I would not think we could have deserved a better out turn”.
He promised “never to betray your trust” adding that as leader he was going to remind his new administration that based on the mandate given “the people, they clearly expect us to perform”.
Browne said he plans to meet with the National Security Council later on Friday as well as some investors, saying “it is about starting the work”.
Supporters of the ALP, which last held office in 2004, took to the streets during the wee hours of Friday morning, honking car horns to celebrate the victory.
In his address, Spencer, whose UPP was seeking a third straight mandate after breaking the Bird family’s leadership dynasty in 2004, said the reality of the situation was that “the people of this country would have spoken and they would have made their decision.
“That decision has to be accepted and I have accepted the verdict of the people of Antigua and Barbuda at this time. I wish the new government well and I say so with all sincerity because as far as I am concerned what is important now is for us to come together as a nation, let the healing begin almost instantly and bring this country together in the interest of the future of Antigua and Barbuda,” he added.
Prime Minister elect Browne has declared Friday a public holiday.