Although the two major political parties generally agree that there is a need for electoral reform in Dominica, they disagree on major points on how to implement such reforms.
Proposed amendments by the Dominica Labour Party (DLP) government, for confirmation or registration of Dominicans living overseas, in the Registration of Electors Act have become a sticking point
31.1 of the amendments of the Act reads, “In order to facilitate confirmation in accordance with this part of persons residing overseas, the office of any mission or embassy of the State or any other place approved by the Commission may be designated as a registration office and the registering, enrolment officer and assistant registering officer shall be appointed under the direction of the Chief Registering Officer for that purpose.”
The Opposition, United Workers Party (UWP), led by Lennox Linton, said it is “uncompromisingly opposed” to the proposed Amendments which will allow specially designated voter registration offices overseas.
On the other hand, Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit, the political leader of the DLP, has said he will not allow anyone to disenfranchise Dominicans, whether they are on the island or overseas, from voting.
At a press conference recently, Linton made the UWP’s position on that matter clear.
“The United Workers Party is uncompromisingly opposed to the proposed Amendments to the Registration of Elector’s Act seeking to authorize confirmation of persons on the list of eligible voters at specially designated registration offices overseas,” he said. “The explanation we have heard from a government that such action is necessary to protect the right to vote and thereby prevent this infringement of voters living overseas is seriously flawed and absolutely without merit.”
According to him, “this infringement cannot be prevented, nor can infringement be secured through a process that is 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.”
According to Linton, the UWP will not retreat from its position on the matter, saying that citizens vote in Dominica for a government to run the affairs of Dominica for Dominicans living in Dominica.
“Under the existing laws citizens who are entitled to vote become qualified to vote by being resident in a particular polling district in Dominica for at least three months prior to registration,” Linton explained. “A violation of the residency requirement by being absent from Dominica for more than five years disqualifies that citizen of being on the list of eligible voters.”
He mentioned however, a disqualified voter does not lose the right or the entitlement to vote and can easily be qualified again through the re-registration process provided in our election laws.
“The only way to present fairness to all and to prevent the government from involvement in states sponsored actions that disenfranchise overseas voters is to conduct a confirmation process exclusively in Dominica,” Linton noted.
But Prime Minister Skerrit is also similarly uncompromising.
“I will say this,” he stated. “As long as I am Prime Minister of this country, I will not allow anybody to seek to disenfranchise Dominicans from voting, including Dominicans resident overseas. Dominicans resident overseas are Dominicans. They are Dominicans by birth, they have properties here, they have investments in Dominica and they visit Dominica more often than most people. They have a greater stake in Dominica than many of us who reside in this country.”
He stated that is is a retrogressive step when other countries are seeking to embrace the diaspora and their citizens living elsewhere that Dominica should seek to cut Dominicans off from their contribution to the island.
“There is no way that this government will allow this to happen, there is no way we will go to parliament to pass legislation that will seek to disenfranchise persons on the voters’ list,” he stated.
The Prime Minister remarked that in many countries people went through serious problems to gain the right to vote.
“So 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,” he said.
The government originally planned to take the amendments to parliament this week but has put this on hold for further dialogue with stakeholders.