Dominicans head to polls amid protests and legal challenge

The election comes a week after Al Jazeera exposed a corruption scandal implicating the two largest political parties.

Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit has led the Caribbean island, home to 75,000 people, since 2004 [File: Eduardo Munoz/Reuters]
Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit has led the Caribbean island, home to 75,000 people, since 2004 [File: Eduardo Munoz/Reuters]

Dominicans head to the polls on Friday for a general election marred by protests and a corruption scandal uncovered by Al Jazeera.

The main candidates include incumbent Roosevelt Skerrit of the Dominica Labour Party (DLP) and Lennox Linton of the United Workers’ Party (UWP).

Skerrit has led the Caribbean island, home to 75,000 people, since 2004, but a failure to implement reforms and an alleged corruption scandal have cast a shadow over the vote.

On Wednesday, UWP supporters set up roadblocks, stopping traffic to the airport and forcing people to walk to the airfield.

The protesters said Skerrit had not acted on a promise to implement reforms aimed at decreasing the ruling party’s election advantage, local media reported. 

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Protesters also accused Skerrit’s party of buying tickets for Dominicans living abroad in an attempt to increase votes in Skerrit’s favour.

Last month, local media quoted the prime minister as saying that he does not “help people in exchange for a vote. I help people because it is within me, and my heart, my conscience, to help those who help me.”

In an attempt to stop the elections, a group called the Concerned Citizens’ Movement (CCM) had asked the country’s High Court to postpone the vote until after February 5, 2020, to allow for the promised reforms to take place.

The court, however, said on Tuesday it did not have the authority to hold off on the election and decided the vote had to continue.

CCM has said it would challenge the court’s decision.

The call for reform was echoed by the US Ambassador to the Eastern Caribbean, Linda Taglialatela, who said in an op-ed in local media that “whatever government is in place after the elections, we hope that it will take action on these recommendations in consultation with civil society”, referring to a joint report by several organisations calling for reform in the Caribbean island nation.

Diplomatic passports for sale

The election also comes one week after the Al Jazeera investigation Diplomats for Sale showed a willingness by members of both main political parties to receive money in return for a political post, allegations they strongly deny. 

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Undercover filming by Al Jazeera shows how former Prime Minister Oliver Seraphin offered to broker a secret deal to hand out an ambassadorship in Asia for fees totalling $470,000.


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The investigation also revealed that Skerrit allegedly took hundreds of thousands of dollars for his 2014 election campaign from an Iranian businessman named Alireza Monfared in exchange for an ambassadorship for Dominica to Malaysia.

Both Skerrit and Seraphin have denied the allegations of selling diplomatic passports in return for diplomatic posts.

Source : Al Jazeera

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