Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer said Monday his ruling United Progressive Party, or UPP, was prepared to face voters in a general election, but he insisted that his hands were "tied" due to the appeals filed by the main opposition Antigua Labor Party, or ALP, with the courts.

Spencer, who is seeking a third consecutive term in office, said in a statement that there had been a "high level of debate and discussions at all levels of the society" about the election date, but he had also been disappointed "at the malicious misinformation and the level of concerted orchestrated attempts to mislead and misguide the population."

The ALP held a rally last Thursday in the capital to pressure the government to set an election date and said it would not participate in any parliamentary sessions, arguing that the UPP government was undemocratic and illegal.

Spencer, however, said several steps must be taken under the constitution before general elections could be held.

"With respect to the registration or re-registration of voters, the Electoral Commission must complete the full exercise including hearing and determining claims and objections and must publish thereafter a full list of the registered voters in each constituency," the prime minister said.

Spencer said that in addition, he must be satisfied that the Electoral Commission was in a state of readiness.

"It is only after these two critically vital ingredients of the Electoral Process have been met, that I can properly and legally exercise the powers that reside in me to set the date for general elections," the prime minister said, noting that two matters now before the courts were preventing him from exercising his constitutional duty.

"It is no secret that the courts of Antigua and Barbuda did not rule in favor of the ALP on the challenges which they brought in respect of issues which they raised on these two matters, that is, the Boundaries Commission report and the re-registration exercise," Spencer said.

The ALP and its leader, Gaston Browne, exercised their rights and took the matter to the Court of Appeal, where a decision is now pending, the prime minister said.

In the 2009 general election, the UPP won nine of the 17 seats in parliament, with the remainder going to the ALP. EFE