December 23, 2009
Skerrrit re-elected for a third term

ROSEAU – Dominica’s governing party won a decisive victory in early parliamentary elections, officials said Saturday, a sign of strong support for the prime minister’s plan to promote development of the lush Caribbean island’s natural resources.{{more}}

Election authorities said Roosevelt Skerrit’s Dominica Labour Party (DLP) won 17 of the 21 seats in Parliament, four more than it held previously.

For the second straight election, the strong showing at the polls Friday gave Skerrit’s party the simple majority needed to pass laws without forming a coalition.

Authorities said turnout was high, but election officials did not have figures Saturday morning. They were expected to certify results later in the day.

In an early morning address to the nation over state-owned radio, Skerrit described Friday’s election as “peaceful and democratic”.

“I am grateful but humbled for the vote of confidence,” said the 37-year-old University of Mississippi graduate, adding that he expected to name his Cabinet this week and that he hoped the opposition would be “gracious in defeat”.

His main rival, opposition leader Ron Green of the United Workers’ Party, described the election as a “sad, sad day for democracy in the country.”

He did not immediately say if he planned to challenge the vote.

During the campaign, Green accused Skerrit of manipulating aid from Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez for political benefit and recently suggested, without elaborating, that Chavez might have inadvertently interfered in Dominican affairs.

The island of 72,000 people has become one of the staunchest members of Chavez’s Bolivarian Alliance while reaping tens of millions of dollars in Venezuelan investment. Skerrit has also maintained friendly relations with the United States, however.

In recent months, Skerrit has promoted development by signing a deal to export water and has proposed selling geothermal power to the region.

Opponents have tried to undermine Skerrit by accusing him of holding dual French and Dominican citizenship, a constitutional violation.

A day before the election, opposition candidate Maynard Joseph filed a petition with the electoral board to disqualify Skerrit and said he would pursue the matter in court if the prime minister won a second five-year term. (AP)