St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ Opposition Leader, Godwin Friday is expressing concerns about snap general elections in Dominica even as a commission’s recommendations on electoral reform are yet to be implemented.
On Nov. 6, Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit announced Dec. 6 as the date for a snap general election in Dominica, three years after he led the ruling Dominica Labour Party (DLP) to an 18-3 victory in the general election of 2019.
Since then, the main opposition United Workers Party (UWP) and the Dominica Freedom Party (DFP) have announced that they will boycott the election.
The UWP said it remains convinced that the electoral reform “as demanded by the Dominican population is needed to facilitate free and fair elections” in Dominica.
Meanwhile, DFP leader, Bernard Hurtault said the party “cannot in clear conscience continue to validate a deeply flawed and anti-democratic election process.
“The DFP will therefore not contest the December 6, 2022 general election,” he further stated, adding that the party now views the election date as a “day of liberation”.
Speaking on Radio on Monday, Friday noted that Skerrit has called general elections notwithstanding the fact that there is two years left to go in the term and that Sir Dennis Byron, who the government appointed as commissioner of the electoral reform exercise is yet to complete his work.
“And, November 6, Sir Dennis wrote a letter to the leader of the opposition and the government saying where he was with the report, and what the plan of action was going forward,” Friday said.
“He said that he would present phase one of the report in the month of November so the Parliament could then bring in legislation to deal with the register of voters sometime in December, and to be enacted, hopefully, early in the New Year, in January.”
Friday said that Sir Dennis had indicated that after consultation, he would do phase two of his report in February or March of 2023 and then they would have further legislation again in March-April 2023.
“This is the commissioner, Sir Dennis Byron, outlining the plan for what he is going to do and then what does the government do? What does the government of Skerrit do? Disregard it entirely and call election; say, ‘We’re going with the same thing we have here now. All them complaints that people made and so forth and all this stuff that I told you to look into, I don’t care about that I’m going to call election now.’”
Friday said the situation is something that people of the region have to take note of.
“… that kind of disregard for process, having spent hundreds of thousands of dollars thus far on this commission — not that the money is the most important thing — the most important thing is the preservation of democracy, to also have the appearance of free and fair elections,” the Vincentian opposition leader said.
“I mean, a question that people ask, well, if you have this reform, you say that reform is going ahead, that you appointed the commissioner suggests that you have accepted that the commission is needed, and you will give them the chance to do their work. And then after that you can call elections.
“But instead of that, the government has definitely disregarded the work of the commission, because it’s not done,” he said, noting that the workflow of the commission, as outlined by Sir Dennis.
“But elections are scheduled for the sixth of December in Dominica and the opposition United Workers Party, they basically said the same thing, that you can’t do this and then expect people to participate in the system that we have acknowledged has problems, and just go ahead as if it’s normal.”
Friday noted that the UWP, a sister party of his New Democratic Party, has said that it will boycott the polls.
“… we’re going to have, essentially, a government whose legitimacy is going to be very much questioned. And this is an unfortunate development in our region,” Friday said.
“And we all have to pay attention to it. Very few people in the region can afford to turn away, nobody can afford to turn away from this sort of thing and not pay attention to it and suggest well, oh, this is just for Dominicans,” Friday said.
“We had our challenges here, still have our challenges here in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. We have to take an interest in what is happening there … because we’re all one economic space, we’re one region, and we should be adopting best practices.
“And first and foremost, we should ensure that democracy, that our democratic system, our democratic traditions, are upheld and that we are always going to be able to say that a government, when it is elected, it was elected, free and fair,” the opposition leader said.
“When we can’t do that, we put our entire societies in jeopardy because people try, they either get alienated from the system, or they find other means to try to express their dissatisfaction with government, if they feel that the ballot isn’t working, and nobody wants any of that to happen,” Friday said.
“We want to have our transition of government to have legitimacy of having had free and fair elections, and that both parties or whoever the participants in the system are, acknowledge the results. That is going to be very much questioned in the circumstances that are there now in Dominica. And we all must express our deep concern about that.”