Dominicans must vote wisely next Monday
Monday next week is the day that Dominicans are scheduled to choose a new administration, either by electing the new-look United Workers Party (UWP) Team Dominica or the 15-year old Dominica Labour Party (DLP) administration of Roosevelt Skerrit who will plot and execute the social and economic development plans of Dominica for the next five years.
We, therefore, urge the voters to choose wisely, even though we will admit that the choice is not easy. Nevertheless, we hope that when the dust settles on the 2014 election campaign everyone will gratuitously accept the decision of the majority. This may be wishful thinking given the bitterness and acrimony that the campaign has generated.
But as a Caribbean religious leader said recently, all voters must remember the power, responsibility and purpose of the simple act of marking an x close to the name of the candidate that one believes will best represent his wishes in parliament or in the cabinet of either Lennox Linton or Roosevelt Skerrit. That exercise of voting to elect a government, he stressed, is not only a responsibility but a right that our ancestors struggled so hard to earn and maintain.
Over the past few weeks, in fact months, the ruling DLP and the revitalised opposition UWP have explained the issues that confront Dominica at this juncture in its short history. Through a number of feature articles, we too at the Sun did our part by highlighting some of the major problems and opportunities Dominicans have to consider as we go to the polls on December 8, 2014.
Although there were heated exchanges, especially between the leaders of the two parties during the campaign, we have to be thankful that, so far, we have had no major incidence of violence to complain about, apart from the tearing down of a few posters here and there. Nevertheless the duration and intensity of the election campaign has further divided this small society and it will take much care and attention, and lots of time, to adequately put Dominica together again.
So, campaign 2014 is almost over. During the next several days, the political parties will be on the home stretch. The manifestos have been issued and thanks to the Internet copies are available to all voters who want to read about each party's plans and programmes. A brief examination of the manifestoes will show that there are several similarities in the DLP and the UWP plans. As we have opined previously political plans are similar because Dominica offers very few development options; the differences between the two parties is evident in the boldness of one party and the conservativeness of the other; this may be the result of the enthusiasm of a young party and the cautiousness of experience.
Generally, during this election campaign we have been pleased to see that many young persons, especially in the UWP camp, came forward to offer themselves for public service; they obviously believe that they can make a difference in the economic and social development of the nation. Similarly, we observe that some of the candidates of the DLP, with the possible exception of Matthew Walter, have decided that after 15 years they have not lost the enthusiasm for serving the nation and their constituents although some persons may have interpreted this as an unquenched thirst for power. But whatever the results of this election our parliament will be enriched by having many more progressive thinkers and articulate individuals who will make a significant contribution towards lifting the quality of the debate during the next five years.
As Dominicans prepare to go to the polls, there are two major issues that has tarnished the quality of the yet-unknown results to be revealed next Monday night. The first is the perception that this election, regardless of the results, was not free and fair. We are of the view that both the opposition and the government failed at compelling the Electoral Commission to clean the voters list and to issue voter identification cards. There is also the concern that one party has the wherewithal to change the outcome of the election by buying tickets for hundreds of Dominicans living overseas to come home to vote.
Most importantly, the vast difference between the campaign budgets of the two parties is cause for concern. In campaign 2014, the DLP's ability to spend lavishly was, in the words of political activist Bernard Wiltshire, "obscene". Obviously, there is the urgent need for campaign finance regulations.
We have argued on numerous occasions that when a political party accepts large donations from un-named "friends" it is only logical that these "friends" will want something in return because there is no free lunch. Any secretive arrangement between a party leader and his "friends" will inevitably lead to the manipulation and undermining of the democratic institutions of the nation. Arguably, contributions to political campaigns have been made since the beginning of Universal Adult Suffrage introduced in Dominica in 1951. But when donors give millions to political parties increased levels of corruption lies ahead. We agree with the statement that unregulated financing of political campaigns, especially in an age of multi-nation illicit drug trafficking, crime and terrorism, is a beast that must be tamed.
Undoubtedly, election 2014 an important election, as indeed all elections are, but the results of the 2014 poll could determine whether Dominica lifts itself or fall farther down the social and economic precipice into which it has plunged over the past two decades.