by Renwick Rose
Dominican Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit and five of his Dominica Labour Party (DLP) candidates in the snap election called for December 6, have been given free seats in the new parliament. This was after they were declared winners of the seats they were to contest in the election when they were the only candidates nominated when nominations closed last Thursday.
A total of 45 candidates, 15 from the DLP, will therefore contest the remaining 15 constituencies on election day. Only one opposition party, Team Unity Dominica (TUD) has nominated candidates, five of them; the parliamentary opposition United Workers’ Party (UWP), and the Dominica Freedom Party (DFP) both announcing a boycott.
The parties along with some civil society organizations are insisting on reform of the electoral process, a bone of contention in previous elections, before the holding on any future elections. They have mounted a campaign under the slogan, “No electoral reform, no elections”. However, reports from Dominica state that their call for a nationwide shutdown on nomination day was not supported.
Prime Minister Skerrit has however dismissed the opposition as “sore losers” and charged that the boycott stems from the state of disorganization of the Opposition and their realization that his DLP will romp to a sixth consecutive victory. He has however not commented on the matter of electoral reform.
His government in April 2020 appointed former head of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), Sir Dennis Byron to make recommendations for electoral reform.
Sir Dennis’ report has been delayed well beyond its expected end of 2020 deadline. However, in a letter to the Opposition on the very date that PM Skerrit called the elections, Sir Dennis had laid out a timetable for the tabling of his recommendations, debate on them in Parliament with the intention of having parliamentary approval by April 2023.
In response to Opposition enquiries, Sir Dennis has avoided any direct comment on the calling of the snap elections before his recommendations could be considered. He said last week that he was “caught by surprise” by the election announcement and still plans to submit his recommendations by the end of November.
However, given the sensitive situation and the need to maintain “impartiality”, he wished to withhold any comment on the decision to proceed with the election.