COMMENTARY: Is it okay to participate in these elections without electoral reform? Our collective responsibility to grow and preserve our democracy

Anthony Leblanc

Lest We Forget Recent History

The calling of snap election was always a possibility under the current dispensation of our outdated electoral laws.

If fact, to circumvent the effecting of electoral reform in 2019, the same Prime Minister called general elections on 5th November 2019.  Preceding that, the Electoral Reform Effort Group (EREG) had done tremendous work aimed at uncovering the issues surrounding the call for and failure to have electoral reform.  These included holding several consultations with The President, The Electoral Commission, the Political Parties, and open discussions with the general public as well as the issuing of two reports:  an interim in April 2019, and the Final Report dated 8th August 2019.  Notably, the Prime Minister both failed to respond to the EREG’s invitation to consult with it, or to direct any person from the administrative branch of Government to meet in consultation with the Group.

On an invitation of Government, an eight (8) person Special Joint Mission of the Organization of the American States, the Commonwealth and CARICOM conducted a situational review of matters concerning electoral reform in Dominica at hearings from 6th to 9th August 2019.   The Special Joint Mission was commissioned with the task to guide the country on what was needed to be done before the holding of general elections.  The Special Joint Mission issued its report of 17th September 2019 which all but endorsed the report and recommendations of the EREG.   The EREG issued a Press Release on 7th October 2019 that summarized the Special Joint Mission’s recommendations and called for implementation.

The main recommendations which were endorsed and which were possible before the general election that were constitutionally due in May 2020 were:

  1. to clean the voters list by house-to-house verification that a person was eligible to be registered as a voter in a constituency, and
  2. to issue voter’s ID to those who were verified as being alive and eligible to vote based on the house-to-house verification.

It is noted that many months before, at least since 4th June 2018, the Electoral Commission had said that it had the equipment and moneys to undertake both these exercises.  In other statements the Electoral Commission said it could do so in about six (6) weeks.   The Electoral Commission had later complicated both requirements and had refused to start the essential reform.  Seemingly in collaboration with the Administrative Branch of Government, it had come up with a complex National ID instead of a simple Voter ID.   It said it needed legislative approval for the verification process, and complicated that with external verification which did not, by necessity, require the residency requirements that a potential elector, to be legitimately registered to vote in a constituency, had to be resident there.

Generally, both the EREG and Joint Special Mission found and reported that these were not hindrances and seemed to be adequately provided in the existing legislation.

Faced with these firm positions, the Attorney General’s office, speaking on behalf of administrative branch of Government said that the Special Joint Mission’s recommendations were not affordable: that is, it was not affordable to clean the voters list by house-to-house verification and issue voters ID to those who were verified as alive and eligible to be registered as a voter in a constituency.  This was contrary to the previous position of the Electoral Commission, the “legal implementer” of this reform.   Subsequently, the press reported on 4th November 2019 a claim by the Government that it had provided $6M for electoral reform.

A day after, on 5th November 2019, the Prime Minister called the General Elections for 6th December 2019, effectively terminated any and all reform efforts, using the recent term: therefore, ensuring that the Electoral Office “was found with its pants down” at that time.  The Electoral Office was not even given time to receive or process objections to its preliminary voters lists which it expected to receive by 19th November 2019.


Has Nothing Really Changed? 

In its 7th October 2019 press release, the EREG highlighted the Special Joint Mission’s plea and offer, “The Group underscores the plea of the Special Joint Mission: “The Joint Mission strongly encourages the Leaders of the two main political parties to engage in earnest, meaningful and constructive one-to-one dialogue on the issue of electoral reform.  All three organizations – CARICOM, the Commonwealth and the OAS – are agreeable to facilitating such an endeavour should this recommendation be welcomed by the political leaders.” “

This did not happen because, as the EREG concluded in its press release of 25th November 2019, “there has been a conspiracy of misinformation and blame-gaming” aimed at ensuring that the effort to electoral reform would fail.  This conclusion was arrived at after setting out both “circumstances surrounding the threat to peace” and the “circumstances surrounding electoral reform since the start of 2019”,

One of these conspiracy, misinformation and blame-gaming resided, and continues to be in the fact that in both November 2019 and 2022, “the Prime Minister did not exhibit the moral responsibility required of him at this point, by further delaying the calling of the general election and doing all that he could to avoid the country going into another election without electoral reform even as he claimed that the government had given the Electoral Commission adequate financing to enable it.  Notwithstanding the Prime Minister’s statement on 31st October 2019, that the government has made available to the Electoral Commission $6.0 M towards electoral reform, the failure to achieve this reform still resides within both his control and that of the Electoral Commission


The Three-Year Gap

There are two things which materially changed over the last three years:

  1. Sir Dennis Byron was contracted on what seems to be a protracted basis to present recommendations on electoral Reform.
  2. The Caribbean Court of Justice’s (CCJ’s) landmark comment in the Election Petition case that, “…there remains areas of grave concerns about how the process of these elections (2019 General Elections) was conducted. Future Elections in Dominica ought not to proceed with these or similar taints…” 

It is interestingly curious that,  in the first case, Sir Byron would write to certain stakeholders on the 6th November 2022, presenting a timetable and deliveries for completing the institutional and practical matters related to electoral reform.  How is it possible that the Prime Minister was not aware that Sir Byron had an Electoral Reform timetable to be completed within a year?  Or is he scared of electoral Reform? 

Additionally, the situation of our citizens in the eastern part of the country, in the face of continuing natural disaster and challenges, has been well articulated elsewhere.  Because of the nature of the disaster, many of these citizens, if yet unregistered to vote, were unable to able embrace the 24-hour registration process available after the calling of the general elections. 


What Actions are Open to Nationals? 

The opening paragraph of the EREG 25th November 2019,  press statement is worth repeating, “The way to peace is paved with deliberate acts of justice, in a mosaic of truth, tolerance, forgiveness and mercy.  Justice requires that what ought to be done, and can be done, has to be done, and where necessary done with dispatch, without eroding the rights and benefits of individuals.  Justice requires a respect for the rights of others, especially those considered the minority, by those entrusted with authority.”

Yet in the face of injustice, clear dishonesty buttressed by a conspiracy of misinformation and blame-gaming and immoral behavior, St Paul implores us to “Rejoice in the Lord Always, I say Rejoice!”  And so, we must, but not without doing all that is necessary to foster a bond of peace and justice.


  1. Is there Still A Moral Responsibility to Vote at this Election?

The major opposition parties have, in a most laudable way, declared that the call of General Elections, though legal, is immoral and have “taken a decision not to participate in this fraudulent Election and therefore calls on His Excellency Charles A. Savarin, the President of the Commonwealth of Dominica to revoke the calling of election by the Prime Minister. We are convinced that the Electoral Reform as demanded by the Dominican population is needed to facilitate free and fair Elections in the Commonwealth of Dominica.”

It is a reasonable expectation that the depth of our President’s moral construct will not allow him to do the right thing.  However, this call allows our citizens to overcome the moral dilemma of having to make a choice in a general election where “there remains areas of grave concerns about how the process of these elections” is to be conducted.  Without this position, in reality, with such electoral “taints”, Dominicans were faced with either the choice of (a) participating in an immorally called election process with inherent grave concerns, and thereby denying the themselves of the justice of electoral reform, in order to make a choice of parliamentary representatives, or (b) forsaking their responsibility to vote.   No political leader interested in a country ought to give its people such a choice.

The position of the Opposition Parties removes this dilemma, as in reality there is not an electoral choice to make: – by large it’s a one party running, one ideology presented.  So, there is no need to go out and vote.   With this position, the only option that is presented to the electorate is a choice to vote not for a new government, but participate once again in general elections without reform.


  1. How Should we continue to Protest?

Peaceful means is the preference.

Without discounting the efforts of others, Mwen Sweyé et al’s peaceful calls for Electoral reform, which dates back to at least 2019, has been met with attempts to curtail the rights of individual citizens to partake in and to hold peaceful demonstrations, including occasions of police harassment and limitations of movements.   In fact, a recent internal memo suggests that the police are not interested in facilitating peaceful protest by displaying a disposition that recognizes the right to protest, but seems to send the message that protesting is akin to criminality.   Notwithstanding, citizens are encouraged to engage in all peaceful means to make loud and tangible statements that elections without electoral reform may be legal but ethically and morally unacceptable.


On nomination day

On nomination day, every constituency should have nominated one disinterested independent candidate in order to mock, ridicule and ensure that this fake electoral process goes through.  If this does happen, those who so wrongly contaminate the electoral process will be given a free reign to extend their stay in office – their ultimate goal, with impunity.  In other words, if there is no second candidate nominated the Labor Party’s candidates will become the next set of parliamentarians without the necessity for elections on 6th December 2022.

If the Prime Minister can be so immoral as to call another election in these circumstances, he should be made to go through it by the people, if only to pour contempt on his action.  

There is therefore a call by right thinking persons to be nominated, and later withdraw, so that the elections go through.  There is also a call for right thinking persons to sponsor and support these nominations.


On Election Day.

Supporters and sympathizers who are at peace with the Opposition Parties’ decision should simply follow their conscience and not turn out to vote.   They are encouraged, where possible, to engage in peaceful means of protest in whatever way they can, without attempting to disrupt the voting process, albeit there are grave concerns with it.   A call is made to the police to support and facilitate citizens’ right to lawful peaceful solutions, including their right to engage in peaceful protest against what is morally or otherwise unacceptable.

Those who feel that they must follow their moral duty to vote, but are uneasy about this call to general elections in the face of grave concern about the process, are encouraged to spoil the ballot in protest.  We have to record the highest spoilt ballot in our electoral history as a protest, not only to send a message to the international community, but as a show of commitment to true democracy.

Given that the Labour party will still form the next Government, a special call goes out to supporters of the Labour Party, who still have deep rooted moral values, that they ought to spoil their ballots to show commitment to grow and preserve our democracy.

Dominica should continue to develop effective and creative peaceful way to denounce this immoral call for General Elections without electoral reform, but do so joyfully without malice!

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  1. John
    November 18, 2022

    Your article doesn’t address on the question of cleaning the list that Dominicans living overseas are eligible to vote based on certain criteria. Also the any individual from a Commonwealth country can vote in our election base on again certain criteria. Check the electoral office. Who decides which reform in needed or not needed. What about reform to disallow persons who don’t have a certain level of education to be the opposition leader? Anyone questioning the legitimacy nof any election in Dominica should do so for all since Independence

  2. Frank Talker
    November 17, 2022

    What is the likely substantive difference in the cost of conducting a population census as compared to compiling a new voters’ list?

    • Think hard
      November 19, 2022

      Nobody will file an injunction against the census but they did against the reform when the past leader of the parliamentary opposition gave it his all clear. Remember?

  3. November 17, 2022

    My brother i respect and applaud you for your intervention and educational editorial, but you left out the most principal issue “Civil Disobedience” a fundamental right of every living breathing human being, and if the advice by then PM Dame Eugenia Charles and our now sitting President (who dances around issue) is anything to go by ” by any means necessary” was good advice then, it’s even more appropriate now. This recalcitrant nincompoop, wanna be dictator must go now.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 2
    • John
      November 18, 2022

      The writer does not inform the public the elections are free and fair in Dominica. If it is not so was the 1995 elections. Facts are indeed stubborn things

  4. Peeping Tom
    November 16, 2022

    Bossman, the fact that you have been free to write and speak all manner of unsubstantiated hogwash with impunity is proof enough that democracy is alive and well in Dominica. If you wish more evidence, examine the contract that your company now holds for works ta the geothermal site in Laudat. Yes, democracy is alive and well in Dominica and you are one of the biggest beneficiaries. So, come again! As for your question, these elections are as legitimate and legal as those under Mamo and Eddison and in recent years…same rules…same procedures…same tout bagai and you had no issues with them. They were perfect as far as you are concerned. So, why the bellyaching now.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 9 Thumb down 18
  5. En Ba La
    November 16, 2022

    The United States that is the great democracy that most of those speaking are staying there and directing their anger towards Dominica and Dominican people at can leave the USA and get their ballots to vote in the USA election. For some reason they want to get removed from Dominicas list while resident abroad the same country where they first registered to vote.

    Are these people ok? How did we get there? One has become so anti your own country that you are excluding yourself from the participating in a democratic election? What is democracy?
    How do we include everyone and allow everyone to participate. Being outside Dominica does mean that someone has to take my right to vote away from anyone?

    So called democracies can amend the constitution to churn weapons why can’t we amend ours to remove the limit on being outside the country and developing a mail in or absentee voting system? Ethiopians and other African diasporans have have it. The USA have it

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 3
  6. En Ba La
    November 16, 2022

    Removing dead people on the list is not going to have UWP won an election. Facilitating Dominicans already registered and on the voters list in the diaspora is one way of allowing everyone to participate in the process this is democracy.

    No one seems to want to come up with this basic mail in vote or ability to cast my ballot no matter where on the planet I am. The so called great democracies have it and they don’t want us to have it why?

    What they call erosion of their democracy practices this which gets caught up in the legal system with court battles this is what they want to put or impose upon us. The great democracies used to be great they are not.

    Lesson we can learn is learn to amend or laws to reflect modern times to allow our diasporas the ability to cast a ballot or be able to participate in the process those who are on the list. Verification and non removal and mail in or absentee ballots.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 5 Thumb down 6
    • Pappy
      November 17, 2022

      Do you know how many dead people are on there?

      Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1
    • John
      November 18, 2022

      They want reform that will make them win even when they don’t command popular support

  7. An observer of Politics in DA
    November 16, 2022

    Thanks Anthony for another well written but factually based piece. It is sad that this is the state of the country. Most of all, it is sad that the opposition did not have their act together. I believe that Skerrit is calling this quick election again because he can. He is also doing it because he has slowly been increasing his power and influence even on folks who used to be good. I see some of the faces of his new goonies and know that they come from law abiding families that long served the nation in the past. However, they have bought into his propaganda and they will be his shield as he stays in power for another term. In the long run, he plans on moving his wife into the PM role, the same way he slyly put her as a parl rep for Roseau when she has no qualifications of representing the people. Once that is done, he will be in the background puppeteering her. Thanks again Anthony for enlightening us all!!!! May the good Lord continue to protect you.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 19 Thumb down 10
    • John
      November 18, 2022

      Factually deficient.

  8. Juanita
    November 16, 2022

    COMMENTARY: Is it okay to participate in these elections without electoral reform?
    The short answer is: NO, it is not OK. The long answer is: conditions for free and fair elections do not exist in Dominica at this time. And, the PM does not appear to be thinking about the long-term impact that his actions will have on Dominica’s reputation in the region and the rest of the world. He has abdicated his responsibility to respect the rules. Every right thinking Dominican should be concerned about this existential threat to democracy.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 27 Thumb down 7
    • Ibo France
      November 16, 2022

      Democracy in Dominica has been murdered. It was in the ICU very in critical condition nust before the latest announcement by Roosevelt of a snap election. Now it is in the morgue as nothing more than a corpse.

      Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 23 Thumb down 5
    • En Ba La
      November 16, 2022

      Threat to democracy is trying to disenfranchise voters by removing them from the list and having them reregister to vote this is undemocratic.

      Removing someone from the voters list is the undemocratic thing that can happen. Today the 5 year being away from the country is the most undemocratic thing that exists in our laws where elections are concerned.

      Deliberating not making me a Dominicans the land of my birth. Being cc away from Dominica does this mean one is not Dominican?

      The amendments to the law this is what the opposition just cannot and will not suggest because they want to prevent as Manny people as possible from not voting – is this democracy?

      They love the court system too much the likes of Linton and the UWP. What has happened to the legal minds or our people who are for people.

      My suggestion to my parl rep is that come up with a law or proposal or suggestion to amend the law. Benefits all parties

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 5 Thumb down 3
      • Bunso
        November 17, 2022

        Nothing wrong with legal minds. The problem is with corrupted legal minds who are prepared to do anything for money. That’s one of the problem s we have in our country.

    • Ibo France
      November 17, 2022

      Juanita, the man is intellectually shallow. The future of the country is of little or no concern to him. A narcissist thinks exclusively about himself.

      Proof of his narcissism litters the political landscape of the country. Look what he did during the darkest hours of the pandemic. While unemployment was soaring, citizens going hungry, lives being lost, Roosevelt and family took up residence in a multi-million dollar palatial edifice paid for by tax payers while he has denied sick, starving and jobless citizens a stimulus package. How quickly and conveniently we have forgotten.

      Dominicans should get rid of him. You will never fully appreciate how toxic someone is until you breathe fresher air.

      Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 3
  9. JAH KAL
    November 16, 2022

    What is wrong with these guys , What happen you a not living in dominica ? for years the oppositions forces been asking for reform and you never act now they get together to do somthing collectively in stead of supporting the movement you there talking that BS ,in time like that ,thats time you see the snake head ,what a dam!!!!!!!!!!!shame.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 5 Thumb down 20
    • An observer of Politics in DA
      November 16, 2022

      Realistically, the opposition has not done anything to ensure that the Reform was happening and in fact they have been caught off guard with no leadership. With an island needing true opposition leadership as a result of having a Dictator in power, the opposition should never have presented themselves with any form of weaknesses. All opposing parties have been engaging in internal fighting and how are they supposed to be ensuring that fairness prevail leading to electoral reform. Mr. LeBlanc is presenting much more clear responses than what the opposition has been selling recently in other posts.

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 7 Thumb down 15

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