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DOMINICA | Dominicans go to the polls today to elect a new government

Featured From Left UWP leader Lennox Linton ans Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit, leader of the Dominica Labour Party. From Left UWP leader Lennox Linton ans Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit, leader of the Dominica Labour Party.
ROSEAU, Dominica, December 6, 2019 -  Citizens of the traditionally peaceful tourist resort island of Dominica, are heading to the polls today to elect a new government amidst sporadic outbreak of violence in two opposition held areas of the island.

Some 70,000 registered voters are expected to cast their ballots to elect 21 members of the House of Assembly, as well as the nine senators, in a process that is highly anticipated.

The conservative United Workers’ Party (UWP) led by Lennox Linton is challenging the 16 year role of the Dominica Labour Party (DLP) led by incumbent Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit.

Skerrit, 47, was first sworn into office in January 2004. Aged 31 at the time, he was the world’s youngest premier when he took office, leading a two-party coalition government.

In the 2009 General Election, his DLP party strengthened its seat count to 18 of 21 seats, thus heading the government of Dominica for a second term. 

In 2014 elections, Skerrit and his DLP won a third consecutive majority, securing 15 seats and became prime minister for the third time.

Over the period, Skerrit has led the Caribbean Community of nations, CARICOM, as Chair, in addition to the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) in a period of historic fiscal and economic challenges faced by the region and the world.

Often described as one of the most dynamic prime ministers that the island has ever had, Skerrit led the nation through two devastating disasters: Tropical Storm Erika in 2015 and Hurricane Maria in 2017, and rebuilt the country with the aim of transforming it into a climate-resilient nation. 

Dominicans in their great majority consider the government’s work for recovery, especially after Hurricane Maria, as “exemplary” according to political consultant and director at Caribbean Development Research Services (CADRES) Peter Wickham.

A large part of the recovery work consisted of building new homes in vulnerable areas, the rehabilitation of agriculture and businesses, the reconstruction of bridges and other infrastructure, as well as urban renewal with the aim of climate adaptability.

Since the DLP came into power, the party’s policies consisted of investing in social programs including free education, free transportation to schools for children, free medicine and healthcare for minors and seniors, as well as pensions for the latter.

During the period, Skerrit aligned Dominica with the Venezuela led Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America, conceived by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, and benefitted from its Petro Caribe initiative.

Skerrit’s main challenger is the United Workers Party’s Lennox Linton, a former announcer and news reporter who served in a number of news media positions both locally and overseas after studying in the United States.

Supported by the United States and the Organization of the American States (OAS), he is also a member of the country’s business elite as he was the Dominica Association of Industry and Commerce president, as well as a former corporate executive. 

Linton was elected at the head of UWP in 2013. He has since been an outspoken critic of the government, accusing the DLP of implementing “policies that succeed in fostering dependence on the government and thwarting the economic growth that would allow people to create, innovate and thrive in their country.”

An election poll released at the end of November by Caribbean Development Research Services (CADRES) showed that a larger percentage of those polled have committed to vote for the DLP.

Yet, Linton has been accusing the government of electoral fraud, even though he has not presented evidence for his allegations.

The UWP has been pushing Skerrit to enact electoral reforms in a bid to gain a better electoral advantage. However, Linton and his UWP has not been willing to accept the confirmation process put forward by the government in consultation with the Electoral Commission.

The process would authorise the collection of biometric data from electors for use in relation to the introduction of photo identification cards, and would remove from the register persons who are dead and those who have lived overseas continuously for in excess of five years, or who failed to confirm after due process was observed.

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  • Countries: Dominica

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