Organization of American States
WASHINGTON, DC, U.S.A. (OAS) — The Electoral Observation Mission of the Organization of American States (OAS/EOM) in Dominica, led by the OAS Secretary for Multidimensional Security, Adam Blackwell, who was designated by Secretary General José Miguel Insulza, congratulates the citizens of the Commonwealth of Dominica for exercising their civic-minded spirit in a very orderly and respectful manner on Election Day.
The Mission congratulates Prime Minister-elect Roosevelt Skerrit and the Dominica Labour Party (DLP) for their victory in yesterday’s General Election and recognizes the efforts undertaken by the Electoral Commission and the Chief Elections Office to organize the electoral process and ensure that the elections were carried out successfully.
The Mission focused its observation activities on gathering information about the status of the recommendations made by the OAS/EOM in 2009. On Election Day, the members of the delegation visited the country’s 21 constituencies, and observed the voting process from the opening of the polls to the transmission of the preliminary results.
Observers noted that the polling stations opened on time, were adequately staffed and fully equipped with all of the materials required for the election. The Mission highlights the professional and deliberate conduct of the poll workers, who were very well trained and facilitated the voting process for the electorate. In addition, the Mission would like to emphasize the commitment of voters, who waited calmly and patiently, in some cases in long lines, to exercise their franchise.
The OAS/EOM supports the introduction of new translucent ballot boxes and additional security measures to safeguard the votes and strengthen the transparency of the electoral process.
Based on the information gathered by the OAS/EOM in meetings with electoral authorities, government officials, political parties and representatives of civil society organizations, the Mission presents the following preliminary findings and recommendations which aim to improve future electoral processes in Dominica:
1. The EOM/OAS notes that the electoral laws establish a continuous registration process and the right of persons who are registered is guaranteed until such time as their names are removed from the list in accordance with the provisions established under section 7 of the Registration of Electors Act. The Mission heard concerns expressed by different actors on the number of people registered in the voters list, which exceeds the country’s population. While there are currently 72, 484 registered voters; the country’s population is 71,293, according to the 2011 census. Although the law provides for the list to be reviewed, some of the mechanisms used for this purpose were not effectively enforced, raising doubts about the total number of citizens who are duly registered and eligible to vote. In light of this, the OAS/EOM once again recommends that the voter registry be reviewed and updated according to the provisions established by the electoral laws, ensuring that the electors on the list are only those eligible to vote.
2. There is a consensus across party lines and Dominican society that a voter identification system should be implemented, but insufficient action has been taken on this issue. The Mission reiterates the recommendation of the 2009 OAS/EOM on the introduction of voter identification cards. The OAS/EOM further recommends that, following provisions of Section 19 of the Registration of Electors Act, electoral authorities issue identification cards before the next electoral process.
3. During the electoral campaign, the OAS delegation heard allegations of travel assistance being provided to Dominicans living abroad to return to vote for particular parties. While the Mission cannot verify these allegations, it encourages the political actors presenting these claims to provide documentary evidence to the appropriate authorities for further investigation.
4. All actors with whom the Mission met indicated that campaigns have become increasingly expensive. Claims were also received regarding the potential use of state resources for electoral campaigns, leading to suggestions of an “uneven playing field” among political contenders. The OAS/EOM takes note that Dominica does not have campaign financing laws and reiterates the need to consider legislation on political campaign financing. This will represent a significant step to ensuring equity and transparency in the electoral process. The OAS has advocated for campaign financing regulation in all member states including those in the Caribbean. In 2010 the Organization presented a model law, which could be used as a starting point for this process.
5. The OAS/EOM recognizes the historic role that women have played in Dominica, becoming the first country in the Americas to have an elected female Head of Government. Despite the strong participation of women in the organization and administration of the electoral process, it is important to note that only six of the 44 candidates running in this election were women. The preliminary results indicate that out of the 21 seats of the House of Assembly, women will hold only three. The Mission recommends that political parties consider initiatives, including training programs and awareness-raising campaigns, geared towards enhancing leadership roles of women in the political process.
6. The Mission observed that since 1990, the number of constituencies has remained unchanged with significant imbalances in the number of electors between them. While larger constituencies have more than 7000 registered voters, the smallest has 1569 electors. The OAS/EOM recommends that, according to the provisions under section 57 of the Constitution, the Electoral Boundaries Commission should review the number and boundaries of the constituencies so that they ensure the equal representation of the electorate.
The OAS reemphasizes the importance of considering these recommendations before the next electoral cycle.
A more detailed verbal report on the observations and recommendations of the OAS Electoral Observation Mission will be presented to the OAS Permanent Council in Washington, D.C. This report will be shared with all stakeholders in Dominica and will be available through the OAS website at www.oas.org.
The OAS Mission wishes to thank the Government of Dominica for the invitation to observe this process and for their support and openness in facilitating the observation tasks of the delegation. In addition, the Mission thanks the governments of Argentina, South Korea and France for their financial contributions that made this mission possible.