ST JOHN’S, Antigua (CMC) – Voters in Antigua and Barbuda will go to the polls on June 12 to choose a new government for this Leeward Island nation of 89 000 people, Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer announced here late yesterday. The incumbent United Progressive Party (UPP), seeking a third term in office, is being challenged by the opposition Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP), led by Gaston Browne. The announcement ends weeks of intense speculation and debate as elections have been constitutionally due since March. Spencer announced the date to UPP supporters at a mass rally in the village of Potters, east of the capital. About 48 000 people have been registered to vote after an exercise in November 2013, the Antigua and Barbuda Electoral Commission (ABEC) had said. The last general election was held in March 2009 and UPP, which has been in power since 2004, is hoping to improve on its slender victory when it won nine of the 16 seats at stake in the House of Representatives. The ABLP suffered its first electoral defeat in 2004 after nearly 30 years in power held by the iconic and controversial Bird family. Lester Bird, 76, who succeeded his father and ALP founder Vere Bird Sr as prime minister from 1994 until 2004, lost the ABLP’s leadership race to Browne in 2012. Elder brother Vere Junior, who held several cabinet posts from 1984 to 2004, died in March 2013, aged 76.