Dominica’s ERC wants to enforce two-year prison terms for election bribery

July 8, 2024  -The Dominican Electoral Reform Coalition (ERC) is advocating for a mandatory prison sentence of at least two years for anyone convicted of bribery or treating to secure votes during a general election in Dominica.

On Sunday, the ERC urged the government to implement recommendations they say were left out of the draft legislation aimed at modernizing the electoral system, which is set to be presented to Parliament before the end of the year.

Last June, Sir Dennis Byron, the former president of the Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), submitted a report on electoral reform to the Dominica government. Sir Dennis was the sole commissioner working on electoral reform, a contentious issue that led opposition parties, the United Workers Party (UWP) and the Dominica Freedom Party (DFP), to boycott the last general election. This boycott resulted in the ruling Dominica Labour Party (DLP) winning 19 of the 21 seats, with the remaining seats going to independent candidates.

ERC executive member Pastor Randy Rodney emphasized the need for strict penalties for bribery, treating, and undue influence in campaign finance regulation.

“For the offence of bribery, there must be a compulsory prison term of not less than two years,” he stated. Rodney also highlighted the importance of transparency in campaign finance, urging that the sources of election funding be disclosed.

Other recommendations

The ERC also recommended prohibiting the use of public resources and state projects as campaign tools, and ensuring equal access to publicly funded media for all political parties and independent candidates. Rodney insisted that the House of Assembly Election bill should guarantee media access for all parties and prohibit public media from denying any party or candidate paid time or space for their messages.

Among the recommendations made by Sir Dennis Byron that were omitted from the draft legislation are provisions related to campaign financing, voter identification, and residency requirements. Rodney stressed that only those “ordinarily resident in Dominica” should be eligible to vote and that all eligible voters should receive a voter identification card with comprehensive security features.

The government has provided the Electoral Commission with copies of the proposed electoral modernization legislation, following extensive public consultations. These proposals will be available for public review on various platforms and shared with international organizations like the OAS, OECS, CARICOM, and the Commonwealth Secretariat.

The proposed legislation includes the Registration of Electors Act and Regulations 2024, the House of Assembly (Elections) Act and Regulations 2024, and the Electoral Commission Act 2024.

Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit stated that the government aims to finalize the legislation by June to ensure the necessary budget allocations for implementing electoral reform.

“We intend to have this finalized in June so that all the necessary budgetary allocations can be made in the upcoming financial estimates to give the electoral commission not only the legislative mandate but also the financial resources required to advance the implementation of the electoral reform process,” Skerrit said upon the release of the documents.

The government said it is confident that the proposed drafts address the principal areas of immediate concern and will set Dominica on a firm path to a comprehensive modernization of the electoral process.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *