Freedom in the World
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Antigua and Barbuda
Freedom Rating (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Civil Liberties (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Political Rights (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Antigua and Barbuda’s political rights rating declined from 2 to 3 due to the collapse of a massive fraudulent investment scheme, which revealed how deeply the government had been influenced and corrupted by foreign business interests.
In 2009, the sudden implosion of the Stanford Financial Group due to an alleged $8 billion investment fraud exposed strong ties between billionaire financier R. Allen Stanford and the government of Antigua and Barbuda. Several defrauded investors filed lawsuits claiming that the government had benefited from the schemes and aided in the cover-up, heightening political tensions in the country.
In 2009, the collapse of the $8 billion Stanford Financial Group, run by U.S. financier R. Allen Stanford, revealed deep ties between Stanford and the government of Antigua and Barbuda. The resulting scandal rocked the country’s politics. A consortium of defrauded investors sued the government, claiming that top officials had been aware of the scheme and benefited from it. They specifically accused the leadership of accepting preferential loans from Stanford’s companies in exchange for not investigating his operations. The company’s high-profile collapse accelerated a 6.5 percent economic contraction in 2009that crippled the country’s finances.
Antigua and Barbuda is an electoral democracy. The 1981 constitution establishes a parliamentary system, with a governor-general representing the British monarch as ceremonial head of state. The bicameral Parliament is composed of the 17-seat House of Representatives (16 seats for Antigua, 1 for Barbuda), to which members are elected forfive-year terms, and an appointed Senate. Of the senators, 11 are appointed by the governor-general on the advice of the prime minister, 4 on the advice of the parliamentary opposition leader, 1 on the advice of the Barbuda Council (an 11-member local government body that runs Barbuda’s internal affairs), and 1 at the governor-general’s discretion. Antigua and Barbuda’s prime minister is typically the leader of the majority party or coalition that emerges from the legislative elections. The Antigua and Barbuda Electoral Commission (ABEC) was established in 2008 to reform the country’s electoral system, including introducing voter identification cards. Political parties can organize freely.
The 2005 Equal Opportunity Act bars discrimination on the basis of race, gender, class, political affinity, or place of origin. Social discrimination and violence against women remain problems, however. In October 2009, the Directorate of Gender Affairs launched a public awareness campaign against gender-related violence following a number of highly publicized rape cases.