Vehicle disrupts protest near Labour Party House
Vehicle disrupts protest near Labour Party House

I have observed political parties manipulate elections all over the world but it never got so close to what was experienced in the Commonwealth of Dominica's December 6, 2019 General Elections.

That experience opened my eyes to what I consider to be a country held to ransom by one individual who has been able to use the resources of the state to influence candidates (including opposition voices), voters and others, and contaminate every institution of state in a manner that has made almost everyone become answerable to him.

George Washington thought political parties were "potent engines" easily abused by "cunning, ambitious and unprincipled men." The English poet Alexander Pope thought they manipulated "the madness of the many, for the gain of a few."

Neither man was unusual: Plenty of political thinkers in the 18th century — the era that gave birth to modern democracy in both America and Britain -had poor opinions of political parties. So why do we remain so attached to them today?

Election Day 2019 was not as important as the events leading to it several years prior. We are left to beg the question: "Are politicians working for the people or vice versa?" Well, the constitution instructs that we have representative government or a DEMOCRACY where the people we elect to office for a 5-year term are working for us and MUST do the things the PEOPLE ask or even demand.

For more than eleven years, polls show a substantial majority of citizens have seen flaws in the way we elect our government because of the way the current administration has sidelined or totally ignored the voices of the people. As a result, they have been asking for corrections in the system to make it fairer for all parties seeking to contest elections (like cleansing the voters' list and the issuance of Voter ID cards). The sitting Prime Minister, the President and their cabinet colleagues, aided by his accomplices simply ignore the cry of the masses and pursued to call an election defying massive protests and appeals for change.

Although in our democratic form of government we understand that the majority rules, it does not mean that the minority should be ignored. With all that chaos that preceded the December 6, 2019's general election, we also witnessed the imposition of a Regional Security System (RSS) descending on our people on the eve of election creating havoc in at least one prominent village in the island. The next day election was executed even after thousands of objections to the "voter's list" were submitted to the electoral office within the legal time limit.

The result of that ill-conceived and flawed election gave the "party in power" an overwhelming victory at the polls. Why did that happen? My opinion is that there was large contingent of non-residents who showed up at the polls and voted. It is alleged that planes were chartered and in some cases hundreds maybe thousands of airlines tickets were given to those persons just to come and vote; most returned the next day or several days later. Do WE THE PEOPLE see something wrong, unethical and possibly illegal about that?

To add insult to injury, opposing forces have challenged the results of the elections in at least ten constituencies. Election was December 6, 2019 and to date there has been no action by the court to schedule a hearing. This is probably one of a few countries where challenges to election results are not given an EXPEDITED HEARING since ELECTIONS are the main pillars of a democracy.

My conclusion is that the leader, the cabinet and supporters of the ruling regime have made it virtually impossible for any opposing party to ever win an election in the foreseeable future. The use and abuse of state resources as well as the control of the Electoral Commission and elected members to the whims and fancies of one individual, forces total loyalty to the leader and party to the detriment of the country.

Readers, please answer this question: "Do you elect a representative to be loyal to the country or on loyal to his/her leader or party? If you believe in loyalty to country above loyalty to leader or party, then you will appreciate my insight.

With all that in mind, I am recommending that we have what I call TRUE REPRESENTATIVE GOVERNMENT – where the people elected actually represent the constituents. In my formula, there shall be NO POLITICAL PARTIES; instead, we would have independent elected representatives. This is how it would work:

  • The Electoral Commission would receive its budget like every other agency

  • Without a party hierarchy, there will be no loyalty to any individual or party

  • The Boundaries Commission would review the country and reapportion the constituencies to reflect the population

  • All candidates must reside in the constituency they are contesting and will be will only be permitted to campaign within the boundaries of his/her constituency

  • There must be several debates among the candidates who must limit their comments to constituency plans and issues with no negative campaigning

  • There can be several persons contesting for the seat in the constituency

  • If no one captures 50% plus 1 vote at the general election, then there shall be a runoff election within two weeks after the election between the two highest vote getters

  • Once the final election results are certified, all elected members shall meet and elect a majority and minority in the Parliament. Interestingly, all elected members shall participate in the vote for the Prime Minister/Leader of Government as well as the Leader of the Opposition and the Speaker of the House of Assembly

  • No Prime Minister shall hold the finance ministry and a minister shall be paid only one salary and not make any claim for compensation no matter how many ministries he/she chooses to undertake

  • Recommendations for President must come from the public and submitted to Parliament for debate and approval.

  • Recommendations for Attorney General shall come from members of the bar and submitted to Parliament for debate and approval

  • Constituents will have the power to recall representatives through a process to be determined

  • No Prime Minister shall serve for more than two consecutive five year terms

  • The General Election date shall be known to everyone, for example the Thursday after the first Wednesday in March every five years

  • The Electoral Commission would receive its budget like every other agency

  • Without a party hierarchy, there will be no loyalty to any individual or party

  • No one who has been rejected by the people shall hold the office of President, Attorney General, Minister of Government or Speaker of the House.

What are the advantages of my recommended system of governance? Here are they:

  • We will have more PEOPLE-CENTERED POWER; politicians must answer to their constituents without needing approval from anyone else

  • No party bosses to manipulate cabinet members to rubber-stamp their positions

  • No party conventions and other activities that demand huge amounts of money

  • No national campaign that would demand huge amounts of money

  • Candidates must raise funds within their constituency and there must be proper accounting of all funds received and disbursed by the campaign

  • Candidates shall be required to campaign only in their constituency

  • Of course, there must be a complete re-registration of electors and required residency requirements in the polling district prior to election

  • Prohibit overseas campaigning; citizens who feel that they are eligible to vote in a particular election must come to Dominica on their own in order to assert their eligibility

  • All elected members shall be full time and must report to the Integrity in Public Office Commission

  • Those with dictatorial ambitions can forget it. Dictators generally use the resources of the country and the power of the office to wield enormous power by favoring some and giving crumbs to the masses for their loyalty and vote

  • There should be no need for SYMBOL VOTING which tempt people to vote for symbols rather than the people that need their vote

  • CORRUPTION should be at a minimum because parliamentarians will be keeping check on each other.

The survival of parties depend on enormous amount of money from wealthy individuals, businesses or organizations that need favors in return. So, with no party at play, we eliminate that "corrupt intent" of those givers. I have experienced several parties both here and overseas scramble to find financiers for their campaign. Let DOMINICA be the first country to take that bold step.

The country will benefit with much less money spent on elections, state funds less likely to be abused by those in power and an overall healthier government surrounded by watchdogs.

Political parties were once broad movements with links to real institutions that mattered to people, institutions such as trade unions and church groups that offered not just political participation but also an identity. As the power of those real institutions faded — as identity became a thing people increasingly found online — the mainstream parties became hollow vehicles for politicians to gain power. In an information landscape increasingly governed by algorithms that favor anger and extremism, it was a short step from there to their capture by angry, frustrated groups.

I want readers to view this as a template for completely changing the way we select our leaders and have them much more accountable to the voters.