Freedom of information is among electoral reform measures that Leader of the Dominica Freedom Party (DFP), Kent Vital is proposing to ensure free and fair elections.
“Transparency reduces the ability of elected officials to hide official information that could be important for the public to exercise fair judgement in selecting the government that they want to manage their affairs,” Vital said during a panel on electoral reform which was held recently.
He said independence of the Electoral Commission and better composition of the Commission were necessary to ensure effective and fair administration of the electoral system.
Vital has also placed the the integrity in public office commission on his electoral reform list and is calling for “better composition of the commission to better implement the mandate of the commission which is critical for reducing corruption in public office.”
He is of the view that to remove persons from the list who have not been resident in Dominica for more than 5 years and not simply being absent from Dominica for a continuous period, is the true spirit and intent of the law.
“This needs to be corrected and clarified,” he stated. “These are some of the reforms that we need.”
The DFP leader added, “We also need to consider whether we need to extend the right to vote to citizens in general or to persons with interest.”
He noted that those reforms that can help the country reach its ultimate goal must be considered.
“But in all of this, we want to avoid the ramification of not having free and fair elections,” Vital stated. “We have a liberal democracy political system and free and fair elections is really the cornerstone that determines the legitimacy of those that govern us.”
Free and fair elections, he stated, could determine whether we come together after a general election and be inspired to build the Commonwealth.
Furthermore, Vital pointed, democracy, through general elections, gives voters the opportunity to determine whether a sitting government is worthy of a second term, “otherwise the public gives another political party the opportunity to govern.”
He believes that if this “sacred cycle” is broken through elections that are not free and fair then, “there are many potential ramifications, including mistrust which impact our ability to work together.”
Meantime, Vital pointed out election observers for the last two elections have all noted that elections were not necessarily fair and made recommendations for reforms.”
“The term necessarily was used or implied simply because the observers did not have the time to fully investigate the situations they noted,” Vital explained. “If they had that time I am certain they would have not used the word necessarily….They would have said it was certainly not fair.”
He argued that the perception of cheating needs to be removed.
“Even if you want to think it’s just a perception,” Vital remarked, “even addressing that perception is really a sound justification for doing electoral reforms.”