- The Washington Times - Friday, March 13, 2009

ST. JOHN’S, ANTIGUA (AP) - Antigua’s ruling party will stay in power, but with a narrower margin in parliament, the Electoral Commission said Friday, following an election shadowed by U.S. fraud allegations against R. Allen Stanford.

The United Progressive Party won nine of 17 seats in the parliament of Antigua and Barbuda, enough to keep Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer in his post, the Electoral Commission reported.

Before the election, Spencer’s party had 12 seats.

Its main rival, the Antigua Labor Party, won seven seats in Thursday’s vote.

A candidate for the Barbuda People’s Movement, which is allied with the UPP, won the final seat by just one vote over the candidate of the ALP, which said it would seek a recount.

Speaking to supporters at a downtown rally on Friday, Spencer acknowledged that the narrow result “may not have been the one that we would have preferred.”

Results were delayed by a down-to-the-wire race between Errol Cort, the country’s finance minister, and Lester Bird, the former prime minister who helped Stanford establish his business empire in the twin-island Caribbean nation.

Cort, who lost the seat by less than 100 votes, also has ties to Stanford: His law firm represented the businessman, who has U.S. and Antiguan citizenship, though Cort has said that he had no personal involvement with the billionaire while he served in government.

Bird, a longtime fixture in Antiguan politics, is now back in parliament for the first time since he lost his seat in 2004.

The country has been struggling in recent weeks to deal with the fallout of U.S. allegations that Stanford operated a massive Ponzi scheme through his Antiguan-based offshore bank.

Spencer’s government has seized some of Stanford’s assets in hopes of keeping the businesses operating and preventing them from being seized to compensate investors.

(This version CORRECTS that Bird defeated Cort for seat instead of other way around.)

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