A multi-sectoral group formed to advance the cause of electoral reform in Dominica, has presented its final report.
The group, comprising leaders from the Dominica Christian Council (DCC), the Dominica Business Forum Inc. (DBF Inc.), the Water Front and Allied Workers Union (WAWU), the Dominica Bar Association (DBA), the Dominica Association of Evangelical Churches (DAEC), and the Dominica Public Service Union (DPSU), has banded together to find “ways for Dominica to achieve the necessary electoral reform before the next general election.”
The group, which first met on Wednesday 31st January 2019, recently released the report in which they reveal their findings and offer suggestions to achieve electoral reform.
The collective is concerned that if the general election is held with the public perception that its outcome did not reflect the desire of the majority of the eligible voters, it is highly possible that civil unrest and disturbances may ensue. Thus, their ultimate goal is “to attain some reasonable compromise” that will facilitate “the holding of a general election which will usher in a government in a peaceful environment,” in which citizens accept the outcome as fair, and will then direct their attention on working to build the country. To accomplish this, the group’s primary focus has been identified as sanitizing the list of eligible voters and to have each eligible voter identified with a valid ID.
Their report suggests that electoral reforms should be careful not to add increasingly detailed provisions to existing electoral law, and “while it may be necessary to fill loopholes in the electoral law, a review of the election legislation should be undertaken with the aim to clarify and simplify complex provisions as well as to remove inconsistencies and unnecessary repetitions.”
The document also stipulates that effort should be made to harmonize electoral and election-related legislation, as stability of the electoral law is crucial to credibility of the electoral process. The group recommends that a massive public education process takes place, and that the Electoral Commission engages in public dialogue on a prolonged basis in order to “put the minds of citizens at ease that that those in the apparent majority in the Electoral Commission are not deliberately delaying the process of reasonably attainable electoral reform before the next general elections.”
The group concludes that the proposed Registration of Electors (Amendment) Bill 2018 appears to make minimal contribution to the process of electoral reform and would have “profound implications for the right to vote including the risks of retaining, on the lists of registered electors, names of persons who would otherwise be determined to be ineligible to remain on those lists.” It also suggests that if this Bill is passed as proposed, The Electoral Commission would not have enough time to test the system to ensure that ID cards are used in the upcoming election.
The collective advised that all stakeholders, including political parties, and particularly, the Prime Minister, should exercise moral responsibility to ensure a smooth electoral process. In fact, the group calls for the Prime Minister to “exemplify this moral responsibility by refraining from exercising his constitutional privilege to dissolve parliament and call the next general election for at least the next six (6) months or during the period when greater effort by the Electoral Commission is realised in the necessary electoral reform, unless it becomes constitutionally due.”
The next general election is constitutionally due in 2020.