ST. JOHN'S, Antigua (AP) -- Car horns blared and supporters jumped for
joy as the party that has dominated Antigua's government for decades won a
convincing election victory despite charges of corruption.
Prime Minister Lester Bird's Antigua Labor Party won 12 of 17
parliamentary races in Tuesday's election, one more seat than it held in the
Bird, 61, easily won re-election in his St. John's Rural East district
votes to 983 for two challengers. The opposition United Progressive Party
won four seats, down from six, and the Barbuda Democratic Movement
held onto one seat.
A recount was ordered in one district where Labor won by 17 votes.
Antigua's elections council had yet to release figures for total votes
vote percentages early Wednesday.
"We are very disappointed," said Melford Nicholas, UPP campaign
manager, who noted that government-controlled radio and TV stations had
refused to air many opposition advertisements from the air in the days before
Some 52,000 voters were registered to vote in a population of 65,000 --
but officials conceded that included people long dead.
Bird's party banked on loyalty among voters for bringing independence from
Britain in 1981. Labor had been led by Bird's father, Vere Bird, a union
chief still revered for his successful fight against British plantation owners in
Members of Bird's family have won every election except for a 1971 vote.
Lester Bird was first elected in 1994 after his father retired.
Bird says his party has encouraged investors, who have helped make
Antigua one of the most prosperous Caribbean nations -- an upscale tourist
mecca with world-class marinas. He promised more of the same
Opponents, however, point to continued poverty for many Antiguans.
The Bird legacy also has been tarnished by scandals.
In the late 1970s, Lester Bird, then a minister in his father's government,
named in a U.S. federal grand jury investigation for allegedly dealing with a
Canadian-American company convicted of shipping artillery through Antigua
to South Africa's apartheid government -- despite a U.N. arms embargo.
Vere Bird Jr. was later accused of shipping Israeli-made weapons to
Colombia's Medellin drug cartel in 1989. He lost his ministerial post but was
The State Department said in a report last month that Antigua's government
has been infiltrated by people seeking to weaken controls over money
Copyright 1999 The Associated Press.