Published in The Dominican.net
Volume No. 1 Issue No. 69 – Tuesday May 10, 2005
Why the Diaspora Should Not Be Blamed for the UWP Defeat
by Thomson Fontaine
Tuesday May 10, 2005- It is four days after the general elections and the long political campaign appears to be still ongoing. As I walk through the streets of Roseau, I see the occasional banner or torn poster of the major political parties.
Groups of persons dressed in red or blue hug the various street corners arguing loudly about the results of the last elections. Some are angry at the results, others are angry at some for getting angry, but perhaps the most anger by the defeated party is targeted at the Diaspora Dominicans.
Somewhere during the few days before the elections, the rumors were everywhere. Thousands of Dominicans residing overseas were pouring into Dominica with the sole purpose of voting for the Dominica Labour Party (DLP).
To listen to the local radio stations, one would hear that the DLP had spent millions to get overseas Dominicans to vote. “These well-off Dominicans had come to vote, chosen a government and just as quickly were returning to their countries living the Dominicans to suffer at the hands of a bad government”.
But wait a minute. Is there any truth to the wholesale invasion by the Diaspora? The answer is a resounding no. After several days of investigating this issue, I am convinced that this is simply another excuse for why the United Workers Party (UWP) was not able to wrest control of government from the perceived inexperienced leadership of Roosevelt Skeritt.
The truth of the matter is that long before the elections, the writing was already on the wall. In a February 24, 2005 article in the Domonican.net, I correctly predicted the results: 12 – 8 – 1 in favor of labour down to the constituency. Why was I able to do such a prediction without any scientific polling?
I relied on the data. In looking at the results of the 1985, 1990, and 2000 elections, I discerned a particularly consistent pattern in the voting, which led me to conclude that this could serve as a reliable predictor of future results.
What I found out was that the UWP had somehow peaked in their popular support in the 1995 elections. The 2000 results showed a particularly worrying trend. In almost every constituency where the UWP won in 2000, their support had eroded. This same trend has continued in 2005 with most of the entrenched UWP representatives losing support.
For instance, Edison James, Ron Green, Peter Carbon, and Earl Williams all got much less votes than in the 2000 elections. With the exception of two candidates, all the others won by less than 100 votes. One thing is clear. The UWP has not been able to maintain far less increase their support, a particularly worrisome trend for the party’s future.
The Diaspora Factor
There is clearly a lot of misreporting going on concerning the impact and numbers of the overseas vote. In the 2000 elections where everyone acknowledges that this was not an issue, 35,650 people voted.
In 2005, there were 2,500 new registrants pushing the possible total to 38, 150. During the elections, 37,401 people voted, just about the same level voting in the 1995 elections (Before the word Diaspora was invented). When you consider that a number of people who voted this year did not vote in the last election, it is clear that no more than 300 – 500 persons could have come from overseas.
Further, in the days before the election, the same schedule of flights from Puerto Rico and elsewhere was maintained. These flights combined can carry a maximum of 160 persons, so just where did the thousands come from?
Perhaps the biggest contradiction to this notion of overseas Dominicans tilting the vote is the already alluded to fact concerning the loss of support for even the UWP winners. No amount of influx of overseas labour voters can explain why the dramatic turnaround for once invincible candidates.
The truth of the matter is, these elections saw the defeat of the UWP, not by the Diaspora Dominicans, but rather by the people of Dominica living in Dominica, and can be neatly summed up as “The Skeritt Factor”.