DENNIS JOSEPH WEEKLY: The dilemma of election dates and small constituencies

Dennis TDNI will be  leaving this site so that I can complete audio-book assignments and also my book about the unforgettable events of May 29th 1979.  I am not leaving on a jet plane but it may be fitting to comment on the  jet airport murmurs that have come up again because of an  open  report  positioning Waitikubuli/Dominica as one of the 25 least visited places on earth. The problem I have with this abrasive airport talk is that in the 2005 elections the UWP promised to build one and the DLP promised not to build one and the majority voted for the DLP who kept their promise and did not  build one.   But then they did not promise to build a massively expensive presidential palace  and they built one.

Further in the next elections 2009 an increased majority (18-3) endorsed the decision to just enhance the existing community airport so what does that tell you?  People follow these election campaigns and even wave the manifesto magazines aloft just like flags to provoke non-supporters but do not bother to read them.  I am sure there will be promises of an international airport next election campaign which I hear  could be anytime.  This soul of the will of we the people and our  way of life is an anytime, any day sort of thing left to be decided solely by only one of us;  the one we the people elected and  made Prime Minister.

Prime Ministers can take a childish approach to announcing the election date and –yes- play ‘hoop sewe’ (hide and seek) with it.   In addition the PM can use it as a weapon to keep the ministers in line “Just do what I say or I calling it today.” The Constitution gives unlimited power to  a PM who has a horse in the race to call the  race when he feels like running the race.

The Westminster system works well for Britain because of all the pressures that can be brought to bear on parliamentarians by its sophisticated institutions.  Not so in our Caribbean islands where our  institutions, which should stand forward for us have either sold out or are simply too intimidated by authority to make that difference.  So  PMs cannot believe their luck and abuse the bleeping thing.   In St Lucia’s elections of April 16th 1987 the late PM John Compton was unhappy with the results of the poll which only gave him a one seat majority and 14 days later on April 30th simply declared another round of elections.  The results were the same yet he had put the nation into tension, division, stress and expense just to try to satisfy his ego and he could have done it again and again if he wished until he got the results he wanted.

These musical political rallies are sandwiches of hastily cooked up lies and empty promises stuffed between over toasted slices of ‘mepwi.’  If the people are to  understand the seriousness of elections it must not appear that everything about our elections is just a big game, starting with the manner of its declaration.  I would have hoped that a new age PM would seek to work toward setting a  constitutional amendment  for a definite  date for elections or that no less than 90 days notice must be given before nomination day with provisions made for emergencies.  Under the present system snap elections  could be completed in under one month, suddenly called on the 1st and completed by about the 21st and opposition parties would be left with no chance whatsoever to get ready for  our nowadays massively expensive elections campaigns.

I would also wish to see an administration making moves to get rid of all these small constituencies introduced by Edward Leblanc who in 1974 moved the number up from 11 to 21 and left office before he could understand the huge expense and difficulties associated with such a move.   In the case of the Vielle Case Constituency  won by the PM Skerrit in 2009  receiving  87% of all the votes cast but less votes than nine  members of his cabinet and even Ronnie Isidore with 1540 votes or 40% of the vote got a whole lot more votes than him in a losing bid for the Mahaut constituency.  Danny Lugay In Roseau South with 1536 votes or 46% and Bobby Frederick Roseau North with 1130 votes or 33% all lost but got more votes than the PM Skerrit’s 1045 votes.  Ambrose George    received 61% of votes cast which amounted to more than 2000 votes nearly twice times more than his boss and meanwhile the representative of Morne Jaune/Riviere Cyrique sits in the cabinet and House of Assembly with a mere 524 votes or 48.8%.  There is massive imbalance in the division of our constituencies and we should fix this now.

In this age of easy road communication smaller constituencies should be merged with others to make them 17 like St Lucia, which has a larger population.  In any case 21 is a problematic number with the potential for tribulation if three parties become powerful enough to win 7 seats each, and then the perhaps prolonged wheeling, dealing and chicanery takes the spotlight and  God help Waitikubuli.  Thanks for your reading and commenting.  Blessings!

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  1. Taupintine
    April 5, 2013

    Why is on DNO dem man want to write their book Nah? :-

  2. notice
    April 5, 2013

    I believe that no democratically elected government can complete all its agenda or promised obligations in four to five-year terms. Why do we still allow sudden elections before the mandated term ends? sooo outdated!!!!

  3. IPO
    April 5, 2013

    DNO , Please Print this one

    Who cares what Dennis Joseph does…??? If you want to go climb rock please go ahead

    We have moved past 1979, dont try to recreate it

  4. April 4, 2013

    I do agree with mister Joseph that Dominica has been divided into too many Electoral Districts; and also, there are too many ministers. But wait awhile; why wait until now to bring this up. So I recommend that we lay aside this matter until 2015.__ That’s after the next general elections.

    Now, pointing out that the PM got fewer votes than some of the losing UWP candidates, as well as some winning candidates on the Labour, is just “divide and win” tactics. ( Why shouldn’t I be PM instead of Skerrit since he got fewer votes than I). Well Dennis, Katera, Soanes, sang: “Pwess bagai sorcier paka wok avec moin.”
    The DLP politicians know better than to betray Mr. Skerrit. The late W.S. Stevens demanded he be made Chief Minister after winning a seat in 1961 Elections; claiming he got many more votes than Mr. LeBlanc. He along with Mr/Mrs. James and Ducreay were planning to take over after LeBlanc wins the 1970 election. The Party Leader was apprised of it and those three were kicked into LA-LA land.

    I’ll go on further. Some former ministers in the British Parliament represented districts much smaller than their other colleagues who come from larger districts.

    Let’s take America for instance. Idaho, Maine,The Dakotas, and Vermont are sparsely populated states; yet some of their Senators/Reps. have chaired powerful committees.

    So as I say, let us leave the issue of too many cocstituencies until 2015. We’ll also deal with any Amendments to the Constitution.___ Infact the UWP may prefer to leave thing this was were they to win. But again, they should never allow the idea of a 2013/2014 victory to go to their heads. __If they begin to do their home work they might
    have shot in 2018/2019. Bye Dominicans.

      April 5, 2013

      Now is the time to take care of the bobo.

  5. I DIE NU
    April 4, 2013

    Dennis I like reading your column but sometimes you are very sacastic and diplomatic in the manner you express things politically.Your equation doesn’t balance,you tend to be leaning too much on one(UWP) side.All the best with your future undertaking

  6. Anonymous
    April 4, 2013

    While I support Mr Dennis, I am sure if the PM ever suggested this, many would say he doing it for some sort of reason or the other. He would get good “blows” like he trying something just to win. Now that it was suggested by clearly a none supporter of the PM it should be taken up seriously to get done.

    April 4, 2013

    This is a strong argument that must be supported. It deserves critical and professional consideration by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (or the appropriate body).

    This is worthy of serious consideration, putting all partisan politics aside. This is irrespective of what may have transpired in the past. We need to move ahead smarter than we have done before at this crucial juncture of our development.

    Yes, there is a problem. Too many constituencies… Too many small unnecessary and incongruously divided constituencies that create little kingdoms for politicians seeking fame and power rather serving people with humility.

    Dominica is too small and sparsely populated for 21 constituencies. We may well be the only OECS Island with so many constituencies. This contributes directly to the oversized and ineffective government that we now have with a plethora of senior and junior ministers of government, parliamentary representatives and advisors etc.

    Everyone who wins at the polls wants a ministerial position and this is just impractical considering that one who wins at the polls may not necessarily be the best person to be a minister of government. It may be more beneficial to appoint a competent senator with the necessary skills, experience and qualifications to be a minister.

    Some people are good politicians, others are good technicians and operators. Tony and Lennox are good at what they are doing but do you see Tony winning a constituency anywhere in Dominica? No. Lennox Linton, to my mind, has what it takes to be a very good minister of government –albeit without a constituency, shouldn’t he be appointed as a senator and minister were the opposition win the next elections?. After all, we now have a red-herring for AG who, could never win any constituency and is not an efficient, professional government official in any event.

    Some constituencies are very heavily populated whereas others are distributed over large geographical areas with relatively small populations. Take the Roseau South and Roseau Valley constituencies for example. Why should Elmshall, Louiseville, Silver Lake and Bath Estate be in the heavily populated Roseau South constituency?

    Shouldn’t these areas be properly placed in the Roseau Valley, where they rightfully belong? When the Bath Estate Road and bridge are built or maintained, isn’t that to the benefit of the entire Roseau Valley as apposed to the Roseau South? When sulphric gases will be emitted from the pending geothermal plant in the Valley and the waters of the Roseau River are polluted, wouldn’t this impact the aforesaid communities as seriously or perhaps worse than the communities in the Roseau Valley? On the other hand, why is Cochrane part of the Roseau Valley and not the Canefield/Roger constituency? Dennis is right. I concur.

    Roseau Valley

      April 4, 2013

      We should revise our constitutional provisions with regard to setting the dates and time frame for general elections in Dominica. We need to review the boundaries of our ill-defined constituencies and reduce on the number of constituencies. We need proper Voters ID before any elections are called.

      Roseau valley

    • valley boy
      April 4, 2013

      because u just became a lawyer u are an expert in law. .In two years u are a SC

    • Critic
      April 5, 2013

      Not so smart a twist to your argument. It showed up big time. You identified Tony as being unable to win an election anywhere. You did not ask the same question re Lennox’s ability to win anywhere. But you recommended Lennox for a ministerial appointment via the Senatorial appointment. What of Tony? Just taking note.

  8. Wilson
    April 4, 2013

    St.Croix has an international airport, yet to get to the mainland you still take the eagle to Puerto Rico

    • Anonymous
      April 4, 2013

      wat does that have to do with us in dominica (an Independent land)… you forgot st. croix is a dependency of the U.S.A???? so i guess for security purposes, one has to go through Puerto Rico….

  9. Blogger
    April 4, 2013

    We will leave that for the next party who wins, we must leave something for them to do man.
    Plus if we do it now the other side will say we are doing it to our benefit

  10. Humility
    April 4, 2013

    Looking forward to reading your book. Hope that we get an objective perspective for a change.
    All the best Sir.

  11. Blessings
    April 4, 2013

    with all the stuff Dennis wants dont forget the Labour Party still won 4000 more votes than the combined opposition

    • Fairs Fair
      April 4, 2013

      Bought More ????????????????????

  12. one on one
    April 4, 2013

    Dont forget Mr Joseph was en executive member of the party in power at the time, and the campaign manager also

  13. dissident
    April 4, 2013

    I am a young voice in de ghetto

    Thank u so very much. U are such a educator.
    And u so humble about it. People like u must have invented the term Dominican Patriot. Thank u sir.

    Sorry I can’t say de same for a former teacher now turned PM.

  14. Critic
    April 4, 2013

    The shoe is on the other foot. Or perhaps more candidly, Denis Joseph, the “man with the master plan” from the days when PJ was PM, like PJ himslef has chosen not to wear the shoe anymore. teh “ting” must be squeezing him. Perhaps it has taken him all of 30 plus years to see the weakness in the system, a system he helped define and defended to the bone. He was wielding a master plan then.

    On December 31st 1999, he welcomed a decison to call snap general elections more than six months before they were constitutionally due. He worked hard for his party. There was no problem with the election being called on the whims and fancy of one man. But then we all learn or should learn from history.

    I however liked the limited analysis of the election results. It says alot about our system. It would be interesting to find out what relationships we could establish in the results of past elections pre 2009. The UWP won the election in 1995 on a minority vote. The DFP got a larger percentage of the popular votes. But the UWP won in the smaller constituencies. That is what matters – the number of constituencies. Under our system if any party can win 11 seats/constituencies then they form the government. That was true in 1975, 1980, 1985, 1990, 1995 and 2000. With glee from ear to ear, Denis jumped at the 1995 election results. Why?The DFP was no longer in government. Workers win!!!!

    I would have much preferred reading a commentary on the weaknesses in our system rather than the slur at every turn at the incumbent government. They did not create the system. Some of the present leaders in government (ministers) were hardly past their teens when the system was created with Denis playing a lead role.

    Every government since independence has taken advantage of the inherent weaknesses in the system. The only exception is a DFP under Judith and now Michael, Pappy or Thompson. It is also true that a UWP under Lennox is also free of any finger pointing in this regard.

    I want to see deni’s version of the May 29th 1979 evidents. It was Dice who sang in his 2013 calypso echoed a call for the true story to be told as our historians have not told us the whole truth. Waiting for that book.

    • Anonymous
      April 5, 2013

      Won in the Smaller constituencies? Marigot, La Plaine, Salisbury, St Joseph, Wesley, Roseau North and central, Castle Bruce, Mahaut, are these the smaller constituencies you are talking about? If you were to look at the Margin of victory in the constituencies which DFP won, with the exception of Grand Bay, one would say that with a reduced number of constituencies the UWP may very well have had a better showing in 1995.

      • Critic
        April 5, 2013

        Witht the exception of Roseau North and La Plaine, the UWP won ost of the smaller seats. Marigot is a small constitunecy – just one village and the hamlet of Concorde. By our standards St. Joseph could be classified as large given its geographic spread. The UWP did not win mahaut in the general election of 1995. they won the bye-election after Brian Alleyne resigned when theywere the govt. They have not been able to hold on to that seat in the last two elections. Julius Timothy because of who he was won the Roseau North constituency almost single handedly. The UWP tried in 1990 with Garnet Didier and lost. Timothy came and won on a UWP ticket. He won it twice on UWP ticket. he left the party and the party could not hold on to the seat without him. he won on another party ticket. UWP tried many times to win Roseau Central. they did so in 2005 and again in 2009 on a much reduced voter turnout. but they won and the law said they won – No question. but the turnout of voters in the Roseau Central constituency leaves much to be desired. A significant large number of voters chose not to vote or were not available to vote. The other considerationis the arrangement that was made between the DFP and the UWP in the last elections. They read it well. In order to prevent the DLP from winning, the UWP and DFP agreed to split the vote. So the DFP sent a a losing candidate (Political Leader)knowing well that she could not win. But the end justified the means.

        Castle Bruce with all its geographic size and spread is still for all intentts and purposes a small constituency. But it is a constituency nevertheless.

    • Young Patriot
      April 5, 2013

      Thank you for such a well thought of rrsponse to the bias that Denis printed. For an educated man , a talented man, one who was in the middle of the building of our present instituion I find it hard to accept that he only realised those flaws today. I would like to suggest that Denis Jospeh aware that it will taje his party UWP another thirty years to return to their glory days to even give the DLP serious competition, is seeking to advance an auguement. which if pursued, may assist his UWP. Denis, you saw ntohing wrong with this system when your UWP won 6 seats after only 2 years on the political scene and then formed the Government five years after. Tell me sir as a young patiot, what is your interest Dominica or UWP.

  15. For Richer Or Poorer
    April 4, 2013

    Can anyone tell me why only now the writer believes that the constituencies should be less?

    Haven’t all the political parties ran, loss and won on the same constitution? DLP lost and won, DFP lost and won, UWP lost and won. So where is the problem.

    • Graham Chambers
      April 4, 2013

      The problem is after all these years regardless to who used that system we now know with proof that it is unfair, too costly and stupid. So we should change it….you are afraid of change and surely because you benefit personally from the present system that bleeds the people and keeps Dominica as the least bisited tourist destination in history…..wicked….and foolish…..

      • Young Patriot
        April 5, 2013

        Are you saying that our ability to attract tourist is adversely affected by the number of constituencies that we have in our country? Sometimes I wonder if some of you even think before making a comment.

      • Critic
        April 5, 2013

        You have missed the point. There is every argument for us to revisit the system of electioneering in Dominica to include the number of constituencies. Things have changed, population smaller, communication much improved, etc. etc. Such a commentary or dialogue is commendable and should be encouraged. What is wrong with the main piece is the impression that is given that suddenly we now realize that the ruling party has the advantage all the time and that should not be because “Skerrit” is PM (my interpretation). The ruling party has always had the advantage including the two occasions/periods – 1975 and 2000 when Mr. Joseph supported different party when they were in power. He was not only a supporter. he was for want of a better word a rabid activist each time under PJ and then under Eddo. He saw nothing wrong with the system then. He should have first accepted that the system was unfair and has been unfair all along even when he ruled the airwaves (radio and television) with his “master plan”.

      April 5, 2013

      @ For Richer or Poore, obviously it is too large. In the old days the population was 100,000 plus. Every body in Dominica knows (excepting you)that there are too many constituences, which should be axe.
      As for that giant wooden Cabinet….

  16. April 4, 2013

    Mr Joseph,
    I wish you the very best in your departure. Your column is very informative in reading, my email address is [email protected].
    I will be looking to purchase a copy of your book about the unforgettable events of May 29th 1979.
    Having left Dominica at a young age it emulates my mind to read of the knowledge you share.
    Again, i bid you the Best of wishes in your departure and new endevauors.

    Respectfully, I am
    K. Anselm,
    Frequent Reader of your Column.

  17. Graham Chambers
    April 4, 2013

    So many salient points brought to the fore Dennis! Dominicans do not vote on programs but on colours and you could probably assist us in finding out who is responsible for instilling this. Whoever placed it could very well remove it…lol
    For those who do not get the airport issue, imagine heaven with no way to get there on time…
    The bajan said it and many were angry but the constitution gives far too much power to one person….democracy demands balance…
    Of course, too many constituencies for such a small population and area and of course a much too large go ernment….waste, waste, waste…
    If it is one man one vote, then we should consider proportional or popular vote impact….
    You may have also noticed that the present administration is more concerned about visual impact over real needs, the stadium over sending atheletss to the regional games, the castle over the airport, this is the bling thing…

    • MonopolyonJustice
      April 5, 2013

      Beautifully written piece! Worthy of being quoted: “The Westminster system works well for Britain because of all the pressures that can be brought to bear on parliamentarians by its sophisticated institutions. Not so in our Caribbean islands where our institutions, which should stand forward for us have either sold out or are simply too intimidated by authority to make that difference.”

      Sadly the economic realities all citizens face(including our politicians) combined with a lack of formal education on civic rights and responsibilities, makes the citizenry turn on its self. Few people are willing to engage in the hard work of figuring out what is really needed for the country to progress. It takes hard work and commitment and SACRIFICE. Sadly, these values are no longer entrenched in our society largely as a result of economic pressures. Thats why for those who do agree with you, the next question/comment is “good point, but who is going to do it? And the answer is never “us” but “you, the UWP, the DLP, the electoral commission, etc.”

    April 4, 2013


    ADMIN: Stop posting in ALL CAPS and you comments will be approved.

    • real possie
      April 4, 2013

      I put two to three caps,where’s mine?lol guess i should not have said what i said.

      • Young Patriot
        April 5, 2013

        stop posting in caps guys thats all.

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