Foreign Affairs Minister Addresses OAS Electoral Concerns

by: - November 25, 2019
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Minister for Foreign & CARICOM Affairs, Francine Baron (file photo)

Dominica’s Hon Foreign Affairs Minister responded to a statement from the Organization of American States concerning Dominica’s electoral process and upcoming elections.

Honorable Minister for Foreign Affairs, Francine Baron made her address a special meeting of the permanent council of the OAS on Friday, November 22nd.

In august, a joint special mission on election which included a representative of the OAS was invited to Dominica.

The mission identified some recommendations that include the removal of deceased and ineligible voters from the electoral list.

The issuance of photo identification cards to electors to facilitate more accurate identification at the polls and removal from the current electoral list of all diaspora voters who are ineligible to vote by virtue of being out of the country for more than five years.

Government responded with a report detailing the reasons for its rejection of those recommendations.

In her address on Friday, Minister Francine Baron expressed that her Government welcomes electoral reform but the process has been halted by the opposition which chooses not to debate the proposed legislation in parliament.

“The [Electoral] Commission has indicated to the public since 2016 that all it requires to move forward is the legislative authority. The attempts to bring this legislation to parliament have been violently resisted by Opposition.

“The Electoral Commission requested and received support of an expert from the Commonwealth Secretariat to guide them on electoral matters. That expert reviewed the draft legislation and, apart from reservations expressed on the provisions of the Bills which have since been removed, found that the process for confirmation of electors and revision of the register met the standards of international best practice.”

Minister Baron said, “We have not been able to move forward because of misinformation and half-truths being circulated by the Opposition on this matter and their encouragement to others to engage in civil disturbance. Government is of the view that what has been proposed is the best course of action to achieve the reforms that been recommended.”

The Secretary-General of the OAS, Luis Almagro, recently issued a statement inferring that Dominica’s elections may not be free and fair with the rejection of the recommendations and because the OAS has not been invited to observe next month’s polls.

Hon Baron rejects that assertion.

“The elections which will take place on December 6th in Dominica are being held under the same electoral laws which have governed Dominica’s free and fair elections and democratic process for the last 40 years. Both the current Labour Government and the UWP Opposition have been elected through this exact process and under these same laws. It is this same process and these same laws that saw the United Workers Party increase its seat count in the last general elections in Dominica and its share of the popular vote.”

Saint Lucia’s Ambassador to the Organization of American States, Anton Edmunds, just this past weekend told the OAS “there must be a recognition that there are a number of highly credible bodies that observe elections and the Commonwealth of Dominica has invited for them to observe its own election,” he stated. “There is no obligation for any member state to invite the OAS.”