Kent Vital, former political leader of the Dominica Freedom Party
Kent Vital, former political leader of the Dominica Freedom Party

What began as a simple outreach to the struggling Dominica Freedom Party (DFP) by the fledgling Alternative People's Party (APP) for a "strategic electoral coalition" ended with the unexpected resignation of the DFP leader, Kent Vital, several sources told The Sun.

And while the APP was seeking "to join efforts at fostering" unity, Vital was pushing for an amalgamation of the two parties to form the Alternative Freedom Party (AFP) with him as leader, said the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to discuss the issue.

However, the former DFP leader has told The Sun in no uncertain terms that he does not intend to join any political party this year and that he would reject any offers of leadership by the APP.

"My answer would be no, definitely," said Vital when asked how he would respond to overtures by the fledgling party. "I don't leave any options on the table for 2021 . . . I have absolutely no intention [of joining any political party]."

This prompted cackles and gasps of disbelief from people associated with both parties, with one person stating that "he would jump" at the opportunity to lead the island's newest political party.

Vital stunned his party, the APP and political observers when he announced last week that he had quit as DFP political leader with immediate effect. In a statement announcing his resignation the former economist at the Caribbean Development Bank said he was following his "deep conviction as to what strategies are critical" in his contribution "to the liberation of Dominica". "I believe that I will be more effective as an independent player, for the time-being, with regards to pursuing such strategies," he wrote.

In a subsequent interview with The Sun, Vital was evasive when pushed to explain his reasons for quitting, preferring instead to stress his desire to unify the electorate in order to oust the Dominica Labour Party (DLP), and to bring "financial liberation" to Dominicans.

And while he insisted there was no acrimony or conflict, it was evident that Vital and the DFP had a difference of opinion on some key issues.

"I have discerned that some of the things that I would like to [do] … I am not at the stage for championing it in the way that I would like. I believe I can champion this as an independent," said Vital. "If you're passionate about something and if you think that you would be more effective doing it some other way . . . you have a duty to move on and do it in this other way."

But the sources told The Sun that Vital's adamance that the DFP must forge a merger with the APP immediately and change its name to the Alternative Freedom Party became a highly contentious matter.

Matters came to a head at a meeting just under two weeks ago at which the party's leadership intended to prepare for talks with the APP that were scheduled for last Thursday.

At that DFP meeting Vital met stiff opposition from the remaining members of the executive to his recommendation that his party should not present any counter proposals to the APP, but should instead agree to the merger with the name change.

That meeting ended without agreement on the way forward on an arrangement with the APP, although it was agreed that Vital would request a postponement of the talks between the two parties and get back to his team. Instead of a response, the DFP leader issued a statement announcing his resignation, the sources told The Sun.

The APP reached out to the DFP about a year ago seeking to hold talks on an "opposition consortium" to "take all just measures" possible to oust the DLP.

"This collaboration may include strategic accommodations for electoral purposes of party candidates and representatives and for cooperation with non-partisan entities," states a proposed memorandum of understanding (MOU) which they anticipated would have been signed in May 2020.

The arrangement would be for the next election cycle only, unless they form the next government, according to the proposed MOU, a copy of which was obtained by The Sun.

"By this agreement, the DFP and APP agree to work collaboratively on areas which may include as further agreed from time to time, joint-platform representation(s), and constituency/candidate(s) accommodation, among others," it states.

DFP sources told The Sun the party was open to cooperating with the fledgling party, but it was not prepared to give up its brand, which remains strong despite its poor showing in recent polls.

However, Vital felt the party could not attract young voters and needed to move towards a merger that would see him lead the new political entity.

"This thing was prepared and sent to the Freedom Party in good faith to work with the Freedom Party as the Freedom Party and the APP as APP [but] it got stalled because Kent had different ideas as to how we should move forward," one person told The Sun.

The former DFP leader told The Sun he intended to contest the Roseau Central seat in the next election, although he refused to say on which party's platform, repeating his refrain that he would work in the meantime to unite the electorate. But some have already begun to write his political obituary.

"I hope he didn't make a mistake leaving his party," one source said. "I think he made a big mistake."