A Commonwealth Observer Mission to Dominica has concluded that the 2014 General Election was not necessarily fair and Opposition Leader Lennox Linton has said that it justifies the call for electoral reform on the island.
Speaking on Q95’s ‘The Hot Seat’ on Monday, June 19th, 2017, Linton said the report has pointed to the inconsistencies of elections in Dominica saying that the report is “an encapsulation…of things that need to be done.”
“We have, effectively, an encapsulation of the elements of electoral reform. The things that need to be done, the things that need to be changed, the things that need to be improved in the context of electoral reform,” he said.
The report was published in 2015, buried among other reports on the Commonwealth’s website and it appears that very few people were aware it. DNO understands that it was brought to the attention of the opposition within the past few weeks. At this point, it is unknown whether the government, who invited the mission to Dominica to observe the election, knows about it.
In the report, the Commonwealth Mission concluded that while the 2014 General Election, which swept the Dominica Labour Party to power, was free, it was not necessarily fair due to “the lack of balance, and in some cases lack of professionalism of the media; the absence of campaign finance regulations and the resultant lack of transparency on financing, coupled with the exponentially increased expense associated with campaigning; multiple instances of treating and bribery, including the transportation of electors to the island to vote; and the apparent abuses of incumbency, including a lack of impartiality in the provision of public services.”
The 40-page report stated that The Mission heard numerous complaints regarding media coverage and partisanship, “and we believe this will continue to feature in future elections unless addressed.”
It also said the voters’ list “did not materially affect the credibility and transparency of the election process and of the results. The list is however widely and publicly discredited and despite, in the Mission’s view, being accurate and appropriate in the eyes of existing legislation, the Mission does not believe it necessarily reflects the reality or the wishes of Dominican society.” (See the full report below).
During his interview on Q95, Linton stated that the issues that were pointed out in the report have been discussed by the opposition for a long time.
“It (the report) speaks of a lack of balance and the lack of professionalism of the media. That affects the media access matter, we have been addressing that. It speaks to the absence of campaign finance regulation; we have been talking about that as part of the electoral reform. It speaks to the increased expenses associated with campaigning, it speaks to the election offenses of bribery and treating and concludes that there were multiple instances of these offenses including the transportation of electors to the island to vote; we’ve been talking about that,” Linton stated.
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.
“We’ve been saying it is illegal, we’ve been saying it is criminal and it must not be part of our election process,” he said in reference to treating and bribery. “Therefore there needs to be strict enforcement of the provisions of law to prevent bribery and to prevent treating, not to create new legal facilitation, for bribery and treating, as practiced by the Labor Party, to win elections to continue. That is not what we want.”
He was referring to amendments to the electoral laws of Dominica proposed by the government which said that “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 …”
The opposition staunchly disapproves of the amendments and debate on them was suspended following protest action outside parliament.
Linton added that the Dominica Labor Party must conform to the law of the land and not have it the other way around. Only then, according to Linton, can there be free and fair elections in the Dominica.
The Opposition Leader claims that he does not understand why it is that this report is only surfacing now, however, he has said that considering it was the Prime Minister who requested the presence of the observers, he is not surprised at the idea that the report might have been sent to the government and other bodies.
“From my point of view, all I know is that this is a report that, normally, would go to the government because it was the Prime Minister who asked the Commonwealth to send a commission observer in…I don’t know why we have not had this available to us before now, or why is it that the commissioner, as a body, has not spoken about it or why is it that the government that requested the observer assignment has not spoken about it,” Linton said.
He remarked that he had heard nothing spoken publicly about the report, and described the case as a “question that should be put to the commissioner.”
Read full report below