The opposition Dominica Freedom Party (DFP), Wednesday announced it would boycott the December 6 snap general election even as the newly formed Team Unity Dominica (TUD) urged opposition parties to form a coalition to defeat the ruling Dominica Labour Party (DLP).
The DFP, which held office here between 1980 and 1995, has not fared well in recent general elections, winning just two of the 21 seats in the Parliament in 2000 and failing to win any seat since the 2005 general election.
“The Dominica Freedom Party was founded on principles, human rights and integrity of action. While the decision of other political parties to not participate in the elections may seem to present a right opportunity for the DFP to be political poachers, it is simply not in the DNA of the party to ignore principles and become naked political opportunists,” said DFP leader, Bernard Hurtault.
“The DFP cannot in clear conscience continue to validate a deeply flawed and anti-democratic election process. The DFP will therefore not contest the December 6, 2022 general election,” he said, adding that the party now views the election date as a “day of liberation.
“A day when the psychological mode of the country shifted to one of empowerment, a day when all those who stand for freedom, justice and a better Dominica will coalesce into a movement of civil rights, justice and a new Dominica. My friends the fight goes on,” Hurtault added.
The DFP, which was in government between 1980-95 when the late Dame Eugenia Charles served as its leader, joins the main opposition United Workers Party (UWP) in boycotting the election.
Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit on Tuesday presented the DLP’s list of candidates for the polls at a public meeting in the heart of the capital on Tuesday night, sidelining several incumbent ministers.
Nomination Day is set for November 18.
Skerrit, on Sunday, shocked the nation by calling the election three years after he led the DLP to a convincing 18-3 victory over the UWP in the 2019 poll. The UWP had been demanding electoral reform ahead of the last general election, but the Skerrit administration said it had been stymied by Opposition legislators who refused to debate the necessary legislation needed to advance the electoral reform process.
On Tuesday, the UWP said it had taken a decision not to contest the December 6 snap general election, saying it remains convinced that the electoral reform “as demanded by the Dominican population is needed to facilitate free and fair elections” in Dominica.
“Tell the Workers Party for me tonight to stop their nonsense about they not running because of a report on electoral reform. That is not true. They marched up and down for the last three months demanding elections,” Skerrit told DLP supporters.
“Every Wednesday they in Roseau, Skerrit call the elections, call it, call it, and when Skerrit call the elections, they said they not running for elections. If you are not ready then don’t come and talk to me about your problem, that’s your problem.
‘We are ready and we are ready to continue the advancement of Dominica for the benefit of the people of Dominica. If they don’t want to contest then so be it. I have led a party in Parliament with 18 seats and I am prepared to run a Parliament with all 21 seats,” Skerrit told supporters.
He warned the opposition against using violence to get their way, adding “that nonsense they did last election, blocking streets and burning streets, let me say to them that we will not sit down and take that nonsense again in Dominica.
“That nonsense will not happen in our country. This lawless behaviour, the government will not accept it from these people. You fight elections with policies, programmes and ideas, not blocking streets and burning streets. It is not going to happen again and if it happens we will deal with it according to the laws of the Commonwealth of Dominica,” Skerrit said.
On Sunday, the sole Commissioner to advance efforts towards electoral reform in Dominica, Sir Dennis Byron, had proposed presenting the first phase of his report by the end of November with the Parliament tabling the Register of Electors legislation in December and the plan to enact it in January 2023.
Sir Dennis, a former president of the Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), had written to Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit, as well as the Opposition Leader, Lennox Linton, indicating that he was “working towards expediting the presentation of my Recommendations for the improvement of the Electoral Process in the Commonwealth of Dominica”.
Meanwhile, the general secretary of the newly formed TUD, Alex Bruno, is a video message urged opposition forces to come together to remove the DLP for office.
Bruno said he believes that now is the time for “cool heads to prevail…and for us to decide once and for all, what is in the best interest of the people and our country, not our party.”
He said the TUD stands ready, willing and able to enter the “fray” and called on the opposition parties consortium to get serious and do something meaningful and right, based on proper strategic guidelines and not on partisan ego and emotions.
“We can win, if and when we do it together. This moment creates an opportunity for us to do it together. For us to win for the people because a lot of the schemes and the strategies and semantics, which had been employed in the calling of elections, can be re-employed by us to switch the advantage in our favour, and there are ways of doing it.”
“We can win, but we must want to win. Let us not squander this opportunity by pulling ourselves in our own lanes and saying that we alone can, because that is not how we’re going to win for Dominica,” Bruno said, warning that if the opposition parties boycott the polls, they will be allowing the DLP the authority to rule “with a more imposing mandate than they would have ever dreamt about”.