In the wake of the 2009 general elections, the issue of campaign financing has been placed on the front burner by key players in the process.
Leader of the Dominica Freedom Party (DFP) Judith Pestaina has come out in support of such legislation, suggesting in a recently released statement that the victory of the Skerrit-led Dominica Labour Party (DLP) at the polls underscored the need for campaign finance laws.
“That will ensure the fairness and integrity of elections in the country as well as the need for disclosure of sources for campaign financing, if our country is not to be martyred on the altar of expediency,” she noted.
“The playing field on which the elections was won was not level especially with the exclusion of opposition parties to access to the media, inducement of voters by the Labour Party to vote in violation of section 59 and 56 of the House of Assembly Elections Act, and distribution of money by ministers of Government to influence outcome of elections,” Pestaina alleged.
Accusations of chartered flights bringing in voters en masse emerged during the 2009 campaign. The ruling DLP has been accused by opposition partied of spending money to attract both voters and candidates.
Pestaina said an extremely low voter turnout at the December 18 poll demonstrated that a vast number of Dominicans are “completely disillusioned” with the status quo and opted not to vote.
OAS Chief of the Election Observer Mission Steve Griner, on hand to witness the 2009 elections, also referred to the benefits of campaign finance legislation.
However, Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit has pointed to the effect such legislation would have on the treasury.
“The question is are we as Dominicans ready to fund political parties’ Campaigns? When you talk about campaign financing in America, the treasury of the United States provide funding to political parties. You can opt, as Mr. Obama did, not to accept. So there’s no limit in how much you can raise and you can spend. But if you decide you want to use the resources from the United States treasury there’s a limit on how you can raise beyond that … if the state is going to speak of campaign financing and putting the legislation in place, I would want to think that the state would have, to some degree, fund political parties and I have to ask the people of Dominica whether that is something they would want, because sometimes we ask for things and when we get it we have a problem with it. So, we have to be
careful what we ask for,” he noted.
“I have done some research, some limited research, and anywhere there is campaign financing or something to do with that the treasury has a part to play in financing the political parties It’s a matter for us to put on political debate … I am sure if the treasury is going to fund the campaign of any political party based on whatever formula they use, well, I’m sure those being charged for raising funding for my party would be certainly relieved,” Skerrit added.
The issue of campaign financing legislation is not new to this region. In 2007, Secretary General of the Organisation of American States (OAS) Jose Miguel Insulza recommended the implementation of campaign financing legislation in Jamaica. He held discussions with then Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller and other government officials on the matter.
That year, in an interview with the Jamaica Gleaner, Insulza said the OAS was prepared to assist its members financially and otherwise, to enact legislation in several members of the 34-country organisation.
In February of this year, Chairman of the Electoral Commission of Jamaica (ECJ) Professor Errol Miller announced that they are in the final stages of drafting a report on the issue of campaign funding for political parties.
The draft report had been undertaken following a series of town meetings and consultations held islandwide.
Miller said the report would be presented to Parliament on completion.
Tags: Election 2009