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News > Dominica

Dominica: What Is Behind the Conflict Over Friday’s Elections

  • Dominica Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit

    Dominica Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit | Photo: Reuters

Published 3 December 2019

Rather than being a spontaneous result steeming from social movements, protests are part of a long-time, U.S.-backed strategy pursued by conservatives.

Dominica, a former French and British colony of about 75,000 residents, is holding new general elections on Dec. 6. However, the opposition United Workers Party (UWP) has been pushing Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit to enact reforms in a bid to gain a better electoral advantage. 

Who is really behind the protests in Dominica? 

The right-wing opposition UWP party, which is led by Lennox Linton, is not the only sector behind the call for electoral reform.

The first group to officially bring the demands for electoral reforms was the Concerned Citizen Movement (CCM), a group created near the end of 2018, which would convoke mobilizations in the streets demanding “free elections.”

The CCM president Loftus Durand later revealed that his group was meeting with "high-ranking U.S. officials," without naming any.

 Dominica: Court Rejects Opposition Attempt to Stop Election

He added that U.S. officials told him they were closely monitoring the events in Dominica and advised the group to stage much bigger opposition protests in the streets than the few dozens who were protesting then, in order to better legitimize the movement to the international eye.

Then the group morphed into the Committee for Electoral Reform (CER), who met for the first time on Jan. 31.

It is currently comprised by the country's most conservative sectors, which include Dominica’s Christian Council (DCC), Dominica Business Forum (DBF), the Waterfront and Allied Workers' Union (WAWU), the Dominican Bar Association, the Dominican Public Service Union and Dominica Association of Evangelical Churches (DAEC).

Over the last weeks, the CER has been trying to create confusion, fear, and chaos to delegitimize in advance the validity of the election results.

“A few weeks ago, Capital city Roseau of Dominica was burning under the violence of protestors demanding electoral reforms,” local outlet WicNews recalled and added that “violence leaves a permanent effect on the country by destroying its infrastructure.”

Those who observe the events from the ground are clearly noticing that violence prompted by the political opposition is a way to compensate for its lack of popular support.

“UWP and its leader Lennox Linton are only opting for violent options to spread their message of election campaigning. Linton has failed to put on his agenda for the general elections. ”

International Supports: The Usual Suspects

The UWP leaders have also found international support among the Washington-based Organization of American States (OAS).

The strategy seems to follow a sequence very similar to the strategy used in Bolivia, which began by questioning the victory of the Movement Towards Socialism (MAS), then continued to proclaim in advance the existence of fraud and, finally, culminated in performing a coup d'etat on behalf of "democracy."

In the case of Dominica, a Caribbean state that has been led by the Labor Party in recent years, the OAS has held positions that subtly support the UWP leader Linton.

On Nov. 19, the OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro tweeted about his reservations about the holding of free and fair elections in Dominica, while endorsing and substantiating the opposition’s demands for electoral reform ahead of the Dec. 6 polls, when 21 members of the House of Assembly will be chosen.

However, the OAS’ mantra about "free and fair elections" has become a formal justification for undercutting democracy and toppling non-conforming governments to make way for U.S.-backed political parties to take their seat at the governance table, since Dominica has been voting against U.S. interests in other regional organizations.

In Dominica, similar to what has happened in other countries that are also the subject of Washington's concern, U.S. diplomats contribute to generating subtle messages aimed at framing the national situation as it were a critical one.

On Nov. 21, for instance, the U.S. Department of State issued a "travel advisory" for the island, which warns to “exercise increased caution in Dominica due to civil unrest. Demonstrations and protests can take place with little or no notice.”

On Wednesday, the U.S. Ambassador to Dominica, Linda Taglialatela, issued an op-ed echoing the claims about “the need to improve the system of voter identification” which the OAS Special Mission had previously pointed out, a diagnose that the political opposition has raised as to its battle plot.

“Free, fair, and transparent elections are hallmarks of any good democracy and an indication of good governance and leadership,” Taglialatela said.

“We must be steadfast in our support for democracy, citizens, and transparent governments alike.”

Dominica's Importance on the International Scene

In 2017, Dominica was among three CARICOM member states that voted against a failed U.S.-backed resolution on Venezuela at the OAS General Assembly in Mexico.

Recently, speaking on the sidelines of that meeting, the PM then told teleSUR that Almagro should be fired and that the OAS had lost its way.

As well, in 2018, Dominica was among only four OAS member countries that voted against a resolution to suspend Venezuela from the 34-member group.

Meanwhile, the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America-Peoples' Trade Treaty (ALBA-TCP) has also expressed support for Dominica’s electoral process, calling OAS actions as intolerable examples of interference in Dominica's internal affairs.

As a result, Dominica has invited delegations from the Caricom, the Commonwealth, the United Nations, and the Carter Center to observe the polls, but not the OAS.

Dominica's PM Skerrit has repeatedly condemned the violence of opposition protests, insisting that the upcoming election will be governed by the same process as all elections.

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