The deputy US Permanent Representative to the Organization of American States has expressed concern about the decision of the Dominica government to hold elections without implementing electoral reforms.
Alexis F. Ludwig, in an address at the OAS on Wednesday, November 20, stated, “We are well aware that the OAS has been very busy working on regional democratic issues, but we feel that it is important to raise concerns that we have heard about the upcoming elections in Dominica to the Permanent Council.”
The US diplomat lamented the fact that few of the recommendations that have been made by the many OAS electoral observer missions that have been sent to Dominica over the years have been implemented and highlighted the joint special mission by CARICOM, the Commonwealth, and the OAS to Dominica last August.
“The August joint report identified three main areas of concern the government needs to address to ensure that elections are fair, free, and transparent: 1) Removal of deceased persons and ineligible voters from the current electoral list; 2) Issuance of photo identification cards to electors to facilitate more accurate identification at the polls; and 3) Removal from the current electoral list of all diaspora voters who are ineligible to vote by virtue of being out of the country for more than five years,” Ludwig pointed out.
“Sadly,” he continued, “the Government of Dominica rejected all of these recommendations.”
Referring to the set date of December 6th, 2019 for a general election in Dominica without electoral reform as recommended in the joint commission report issued in September 2019, the US official stated, “We recognize that Prime Minister Skerrit has the constitutional right to call elections at any time. However, we believe that implementing the recommendations would have contributed significantly to the fairness and transparency of the elections that all Dominicans seek, but also reaffirm the OAS’ and international community’s confidence that Dominica wants to ensure that its elections meets the standards of the OAS Democratic Charter and the international norms for organizing and holding elections..”
Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit has in the first instance, accused the United Workers Party (UWP) and other advocates such as the Concerned Citizens Movement (CCM) of stymying electoral reform by opposing legislation which he attempted to take to parliament. However, the electoral reform proponents have insisted that their opposition targetted amendments that attempted to legitimize certain unlawful aspects of the existing legislation. More recently, Skerrit has downplayed the need for electoral reform, pointing out, that elections are being held under the same laws that have governed the democratic process in Dominica since Dominica attained its independence.
“Both the current Labour government and the UWP opposition have been elected through this exact process and under the same laws and conditions,” Skerrit reiterated in an address to the nation on Tuesday. “It is this same process and those same laws that saw the United Workers Party increase its seat count in the last general elections in Dominica.”
The US Deputy Representative to the OAS also bemoaned the decision by Dominica not to invite the OAS to send an Electoral Observation Mission for the upcoming election.
“As we know,” he noted, “the OAS Electoral Observation Missions are the gold standard in ensuring free and fair elections.”
He went on to say that the situation in Dominica is growing worrisome, adding, ” There have been numerous demonstrations throughout the year to raise concerns about the fairness and transparency of elections, and unfortunately, there was an outbreak of clashes this week in Dominica.”
Ludwig welcomed “the attention of the OAS member states to appreciate the tense political situation in Dominica surrounding the December 6 elections, and the decision of the Government of Dominica to hold these elections without implementing electoral reforms.”