Reflections on Dominica 2019 general election results

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Rupert Sorhaindo served as Minister of Education and Sports in the Freedom Party Government under the leadership of the late Dame Mary Eugenia Charles from 1990 to 1995

By Rupert Sorhaindo

The 2019 general elections have come and gone, and all the Observer Missions have concluded in their preliminary reports, that the results reflect the will of the Dominican electorate who exercised their franchise. They have all agreed that the elections have been free and fair, having been conducted according to the relevant laws governing elections in the state.

With respect too the preliminary report of the Organization of American States (OAS) Observation Mission; there was what could be described as a surprise admission. In an earlier report submitted by the Joint Commonwealth, CARICOM and OAS Mission following their August 2019 visit, house to house verification of voters was recommended.

However, the government did not accept that recommendation on the ground that it was impractical and would not have resulted in the clinical cleansing of the voter’s list; and that further, the existing electoral laws would not have allowed for some of the procedures recommended. This led to the condemnation of the Roosevelt Skerrit – led administration by the OAS secretary-general for not effecting electoral reform – a decision that contributed to the wave of protests mounted by the United Workers Party (UWP) members and other activists.

In an earlier commentary, it was suggested that the OAS may have been on a “regime change” mission in Dominica.

The OAS Preliminary Report on the 2019 elections all but exonerates the government of Dominica and the electoral commission chairman’s positions, by agreeing that amendments to existing legislation were necessary for undertaking the verification exercise required for the “cleansing of the voters list and collection of biometric data necessary for the issuance of identification cards to qualified voters; and repudiates the position of the UWP operatives that the electoral commission had the legal authority to undertake the reforms, under existing legislation and regulations.

The Dominica Labour Party (DLP) has been given another overwhelming mandate – for a record fifth consecutive five-year term, with a fifteen-seat cushion in parliament. The party’s charismatic but often maligned leader Roosevelt Skerrit has been sworn in as prime minister, and he shall in time name the members of the Cabinet of ministers that he shall lead for the next five years.

Meanwhile, the UWP shall be returning to the House of Assembly with three incumbent representatives: Lennox Linton, Hector John, and Daniel Lugay, having lost the Roseau South, Roseau Central and Wesley seats that it had won in the 2014 elections, to the labour party.

The UWP is now faced with the mammoth task of determining who among the returning parliamentarians will be judged the least disruptive and most productive during past sittings of the House of Assembly, to be selected to serve as the leader of the opposition. However, it is left to be seen whether the UWP will decide to boycott parliament, in view of the statement made by Linton on his Facebook page, to the effect that he does not accept the new labour party government as being legitimate.

Besides, Linton and other members of the hierarchy of the UWP will also have to contend with the high expectations of the several unsuccessful candidates as well as those of the many ambitious activists who campaigned for that party. The opposition is entitled to have only four senators appointed to the bicameral House of Assembly.

Prime minister Skerrit must also be having an equally difficult task of putting together a Cabinet from the eighteen successful candidates who contested for the labour party, and from the five other parliamentarians who would be entitled to join his team as senators – mindful of the criticisms that he is likely to face if the size of his new cabinet is judged as being disproportionately large.

Quite apart from the considerations relating to the UWP as an entity in the legislature, Linton will have to contend with the several court matters that he has been embroiled in – facing charges of incitement, and answering to lawsuits filed by prime mister Skerrit, former minister of foreign affairs Francine Baron, as well as several former ministers.

It is public knowledge that hotelier and developer Gregor Nassief has also introduced legal proceedings against Linton. Those distractions will undoubtedly affect Linton’s ability to focus on leading his party in what is expected to be a very difficult period of rebranding, in view of an image badly tarnished by the culture of violence that it has introduced to our political landscape, as demonstrated so emphatically in Linton’s constituency during the 2019 campaign.

It appears that Linton has already signaled that he will continue the politics of confrontation that has characterized his leadership during the past five years; and that he will not accept the call of prime minister Skerrit for the ushering in of a new season of reconciliation and collaboration.

 

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