Attorney General, Levi Peter has announced that he will undertake a sensitization programme on proposed amendments to the Registration of Electors Act, and the House of Assembly Election Act.
The government originally planned to take the amendments to parliament in September 2018, but put this on hold for further dialogue with stakeholders.
The proposed amendments to the Registration of Electors Act will allow for the introduction of the National Identification Card, which will be issued to new electors, as well as to those registered electors whose eligibility to remain on the registers have been confirmed. It will also authorize the Electoral Commission to establish specially designated voter registration offices overseas.
“Nobody can seriously say that the legislation that is proposed by the government will not improve the electoral legislation so that the position would be improved on what it currently is,” Peter said.
However, Peter’s sentiment is not shared by the Opposition United Workers Party (UWP), led by Lennox Linton who has said that the party is “uncompromisingly opposed” to the proposed Amendments which will allow these special overseas voter registration offices.
He described the process, as stated in the amendment, of confirming persons on the list of overseas-based eligible voters as “inherently discriminatory and specially designed to confirm and further facilitate the Dominica Labour Party’s dishonest operating procedure of stealing elections with illegal overseas votes.”
But Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit was equally adamant about the government’s position stating that, “those who want us to go to Parliament to remove Dominicans who are on the voters’ list legitimately, because they are residing overseas, that will not happen.”
The Electoral Commission has welcomed Government’s intention to table the amendments before Parliament and in a release, made specific mention of the amendments that will allow for the introduction of the National Identification Card, which will be issued to new electors, as well as to those registered electors whose eligibility to remain on the registers have been confirmed.
In the case of the House of Assembly Election Act, one of the amendments, according to the government, seeks to clarify the definition of the contentious issues of bribery and treating.
Of particular concern to the UWP is Section 57B of the amendments which reads: “For the avoidance of doubt, the transportation of electors or the facilitation of the transportation of electors to or within Dominica for the purpose of an election does not constitute an offence unless the transportation is provided or facilitated with the intention to corruptly induce an elector to vote for a particular candidate for whom or party for which the elector would not otherwise vote.”
Linton accused the government of “sneaking in this draconian piece of legislation that will effectively legitimize the electoral offenses of bribery/treating.”
He proposed a strict enforcement of the provisions of the law to combat the issues of bribery and treating and dispel the attempts to create “legal facilitations” for it.
In September 2018, the Concerned Citizens Movement (CCM) gathered outside of Parliament in protest against the proposed amendments notwithstanding the government’s decision to withhold the legislation.
“I am not suggesting that it will address every single aspect of concern or desire, but that’s life,” Attorney General Peter said but suggested that “We can and we should” take the first step of passing this legislation in a bipartisan way and then address any other issue that needs to be addressed.”
“As far as I am aware the government is confident that the legislation drafted is beneficial to the electoral process in Dominica,” Peter stated. “And it’s their intention on going forward with it.”
He added, “As to when that will happen I can’t say next week, next month or tomorrow, but as far as I am aware, the government is as confident about the usefulness and appropriateness of the legislation now as it was when first tabled.”
However, it is unclear whether the two aspects of the amendments which have been challenged by the opposition, will be included in the proposed amendment that will be taken to Parliament.