March 10, 1999
Antiguan leader confident of victory despite corruption charges

                  ST. JOHN'S, Antigua (AP) -- The political dynasty that has ruled Antigua
                  for generations seemed set for victory, turning back its fiercest challenge in
                  years in a parliamentary election dominated by claims of corruption.

                  Only hours after polls closed Tuesday evening, Prime Minister Lester Bird
                  appeared headed for a win, though many races were closer than they had
                  ever been. One recount was ordered when a candidate in Bird's Antigua
                  Labor Party won by only 17 votes.

                  Bird's party had won six seats so far, including two seized from the United
                  Progressive Party. Bird's party held 11 out of the 17 seats in the previous
                  House of Representatives.

                  Elections officials reported a steady turnout throughout the day.

                  "There's a level of unpredictability because of a whole new slew of young
                  voters," Bird told reporters before casting his ballot. "Whereas before, we
                  could count on the old stalwarts coming out and voting."

                  Those "old stalwarts" were loyal to Bird's father, Vere Bird, a union leader
                  who successfully fought British plantation owners in the 1940s and
                  subsequently led Antigua and Barbuda to independence in 1981.

                  Member of Bird's family have won every election in Antigua except for a
                  1971 vote, won by a fractious opposition coalition that failed to govern
                  effectively. Lester Bird was elected in 1994 when his father ret