Electoral Reform - An Absolute Must

Top Quote The recently formed political party, People's Party of Dominica (PPOD) has, through the following release, focused its attention on the issue of Electoral Reform. End Quote
  • (1888PressRelease) October 14, 2016 - The Commonwealth of Dominica is about to face one of its most daunting challenges as a democracy if the following, electoral reform, is not addressed soon. National elections, according to the constitutional cycle, are scheduled for 2019/2020, thus spawning an urgency for timely reform. We can confirmedly state that the Skerrit-led DLP administration has engaged in unscrupulous acts of voter manipulation this last general elections. This last elections has glaringly revealed the immoral depths to which this current administration will sink, in order to preserve its status quo. The Constitution of the Commonwealth of Dominica and the House of Assembly (Elections) Act are broad and slightly archaic in their approach to hosting a free and fair national elections. The United Workers' Party in their letter to the Dominican Electoral Commission, letter dated August 16th, 2016, expressed their concerns for breach of Constitutional law. These concerns are extremely valid, and the basis for UWP's case stems from Section 38 of the Constitution "Responsibility for Electors" and Part V, "Elections Offenses" - Subsections 54 to 58. Gaping loopholes exist in the Constitution, which allow for legal (but unethical) distortion by the likes of one senior counsel who resides and "rules" from offshore. We go as far as saying, that the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Dominica in its current form, does not fit the purpose for drastic and fire-proof electoral reform, and has to be overhauled in a effort to achieve such.

    The Constitution of the Commonwealth of Dominica, Part 4 "Constituency Boundaries and Electoral Commissions" - Section 56 states that the Electoral Commission shall consist of a chairman appointed by the President, acting with the advice of the Prime Minister, and two members appointed by the President acting with advice of the Leader of the Opposition. The appointing process then indicates a system of impartiality where boundaries are set. In theory then, the Prime Minister cannot on the whim, hire, promote, or fire commission members on his own. This, however remains in theory. The shaking up of the commission some seven years earlier when, under the strong-armed wishes of the Prime Minister - acting in accordance of another - Mr. Charles was replaced, clearly violates the Constitution. According to Section 56, Subsection 7, not all procedures were followed in the shaking up process. For example, where is the tribunal's report supporting the justification for the termination of Mr. Charles as commission member? Are many public offices becoming a rubber stamping mechanism for an increasingly totalitarian government?

    We find the Constitution to be inconsistent in its methodologies of fairness, when it comes to appointing and terminating decisions with regards to commission members. For example, the President, acting in his deliberate judgement and acting in accordance to Prime Ministerial advice, shall appoint. However, the President may dismiss a commission member upon the advice of a tribunal, separate from the Office of the Prime Minister. If we were to recommend amendments to the Constitution, we would have the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition submit a list of eight names - four names for each party to be voted on by the public for the office of Electoral Commission member. Out of the eight names, the two highest voted names of each political side, would qualify as candidate members for the Electoral Commission. These four elected (candidate) members then would be appointed by the President to fulfil their duties.

    We also deem Subsection 4 of Section 56 to be irrelevant in terms of laying the groundwork for the impartial execution of duties. The carte blanche denial of public officers for the position of commission member makes no sense. Not all public officials hold office which could render a bias sway of decisions. How is, for example, a junior clerk in the ministry of agriculture, going to affect the ability for a free and fair election, as opposed to say an attorney with strong links to the ruling party? Again, if we were to submit Constitutional amendments, we would categorize non-potential influential public officials from those that are not. Potentially influential public officials then, could not run for and attain the office of Electoral Commission member.

    No where in the Constitution does it specifically lay out, that fraternal and commercial relationships may potentially be grounds for conflicts of interest, with such conflicts of interest disqualifying one from being a member. Section 38, Subsection 5, "Without prejudice to the provisions of subsection (2) of this section, in the exercise of his functions under this section the Chief Elections Officer shall not be subject to the directions or control of any other person or authority" elicits a broad interpretation of what is control, who controls, and to what degree is the exercising of such. For example, what if two members of the commission serve as board directors in a company where the Prime Minister's family has over 75% of all shares? Would not conflicts of interests and attempts to control arise? The real situation however, is a bit more dire with two commission members known to profit from the passport selling trade. Putting it bluntly, a political party which advocates for the accountability and regulation of the economic citizenship programme would be against their interests.

    The Constitution should be loophole-proof in regards to determining the eligibility of voters at elections, general and local council. Section 33, Subsection 2 succinctly covers the criteria for voter eligibility, without further reference to parts within the Constitution that would specifically deny a person/s the right to vote. Section 33 leaves it up to Parliament to qualify or disqualify a person as a voter - vague. Section 33 should be explicit and expansive, and should either contain or make reference to what we recommend should be the following:

    1. All citizens of the Commonwealth of Dominica, who have lived abroad for five years or more (consecutive or highly infrequent returnee), should submit their intention to vote in a general or local council election, no later than nine months before the scheduled event, ie. the elections, should these citizens wish to vote in person. Such submissions could be done electronically or in writing.

    2. A Re-registration of the voters' list should be executed. This will ensure the cleansing of the current inflated list, which contains names of the deceased, Dominicans who have lived overseas for over fifty years and who have lost touch, and non-citizens.

    3. Technology permitting, qualifying Dominicans in the Diaspora should be allowed to vote electronically. Such voting should be set up via the internet and/or by phone. A Dominican is qualified as long as she/he maintains citizenship. This raises issues like impersonation and fraud. That being the case, every qualifying Dominican who wishes to vote but resides in, say the United States, should visit the Office of the Consulate General and be issued authorization codes (unique pin numbers and passwords) to vote online.

    4. Except for the third recommendation, all voters should present clear and current identification (picture ID cards) at the polling station on voting day. Biographical data should be as current as possible, with photos being no less than 5 years old. The CBI programme has yielded more than enough revenue to assist in the manufacturing of such. Therefore, there is no excuse for the commission not to re-commence the multi-purpose identification card project it started in 2013. 5. No person should be allowed to vote, unless his/her name appears on the voter's list.

    We venture further than UWP in stating that the Constitution should grant more powers to the Leader of the Opposition, in terms of conducting inquiries and enforcing actions to remedy breaches of Constitutional law. Such articles that need to be inserted into the Constitution would support the Leader of the Opposition in say, enlisting the help of the police in the investigating of cabinet members for suspected or proven wrong doings. These articles would further find the police commissioner in violation of the law, if he refuses a request by the Leader of the Opposition to open up and carry through such investigations.

    It is our country, our Dominica. And we cannot let the winds of immorality, crassness, and greed glide her further down the drain into an entangled muck of unscrupulousness, deleteriousness, and retrogression. The countdown is on for a much needed change, and we will see to it that there is such, for the Isle of Beauty, Isle of Splendour.

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