Dominicans have returned the governing Dominica Labour Party (DLP) to office for a third straight term.
Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit’s party captured 17 of the 21 seats with the remaining four going to the United Workers Party (UWP) which held power from 1995 to 2000. In the last elections, the DLP won 12 seats while the opposition UWP picked up eight and the remaining seat went to an independent candidate.
The DLP increased its seats in parliament despite controversy surrounding the party’s level of expenditure and sources of funding in the run-up to the elections. In addition, Skerrit’s acquisition of French citizenship and a French passport had raised a furor as has his government’s close ties with Venezuela and accusations that Dominica helped Antigua & Barbuda and Anguilla with significant loans to overcome cash flow problems.
“Obviously, it was a bitterly fought election, but it resulted in a tremendous win for the Labour Party,” said Dominican-born, Toronto-based author and lawyer, Irvin Andre. “Although the opposition won four seats, the issues raised in the elections will have a significant bearing on how the Prime Minister governs over the next five years.
“He will no doubt reach out to the dissenting voices to mend deep divisions in Dominica at this time and it is my view that he has the capacity to do that.”
First elected to parliament in February 2000, Skerrit said he was humbled that Dominicans had put their confidence in his party for the third straight time. He promised that he would place election victory celebrations on hold until after the Christmas holidays when a pubic holiday will be declared for his supporters to savour the success.
“It being seven days to Christmas, I do not want for Dominica to remain divided,” he said. “I want for us to close ranks and embrace the triumph of our democracy. I therefore will be advising my party to suspend formal celebrations after tonight until a designated period in the New Year when I look forward to expressing our thanks and appreciation to the voters of Dominica in grand and traditional style.”
Skerrit acknowledged that the electorate had spoken loud and clear by his party’s overwhelming success.
“Dominicans voted for a return of the Dominica Labour Party to office,” he said. “That is a reality that cannot be denied and is not worthy of challenge. It therefore behooves us all to accept the result, as the will and wish of the country, and to curtail partisan, abusive and empty rhetoric.”
Skerrit, 37, easily won his Vieille Case seat while opposition UWP leader Ron Green clinched the La Plaine seat from newcomer Petter Saint-Jean by just 12 votes. Former prime minister and UWP president, Edison James, secured the Marigot seat by a convincing 607 votes while Justina Charles – wife of the late PM, Pierre Charles, who died in office five years ago – brushed aside her challenger in the Grand Bay constituency by 1233 votes.
For the second straight elections, the Dominica Freedom Party (DFP) led by former Prime Minister Dame Eugenia Charles for 20 years up until 1995, failed to win a seat.
Skerrit was a member of the DFP youth arm before joining the DLP when he returned to the island after graduating from the University of Mississippi.