March 10, 1999
Antiguan leader retains power after parliamentary vote

                  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
                  previous government.

                  Bird, 61, easily won re-election in his St. John's Rural East district by 1,704
                  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 cast and
                  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
                  the vote.

                  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
                  the 1940s.

                  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, was
                  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
                  never prosecuted.

                  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.