ROSEAU, Dominica, Friday December 6, 2019 – Dominicans are casting ballots for a new government today, hours after the court dismissed an appeal by a group seeking to have the election postponed until next year.
Last night, two days after Justice Bernie Stephenson said the High Court could not grant the injunction being sought by the Concerned Citizens Movement (CCM) to block the polls, the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (ECSC) upheld the lower court’s judgment.
The CCM had asked the High Court to issue an interim injunction to prevent the holding of elections on any date prior to February 5, 2020, unless the procedures are fully in place to hold the elections, arguing that there were irregularities in the list of electors and election reform was necessary for the country to have free and fair elections.
But on Tuesday, Justice Stephenson ruled that the court did not have the jurisdiction to grant such an injunction, since President Charles Savarin had already issued the writ to hold the polls, and the challenge could only be made by election petition.
The applicants appealed. But last night, the ECSC’s three-member panel of Chief Justice Janice Pereira and Justices Mario Michel and Gretel Thom said they would not “disturb the decision of the trial judge”.
As a result of the ruling, the elections proceeded as planned, with polls opening at 7 a.m. today. They are expected to close at 5 p.m.
The Electoral Commission said 74,895 people are eligible to cast ballots in the elections in which the incumbent Dominica Labour Party (DLP) is seeking a fifth consecutive term in office. Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit would serve for a fourth straight term if the party wins, but he is facing a challenge from the Lennox Linton-led United Workers Party (UWP).
Both parties are contesting all 21 seats up for grabs.
The election, which is being observed by several overseas missions, is taking place after a campaign marred by opposition protests.
Prime Minister Skerrit had requested the assistance of the Regional Security System (RSS) and troops arrived in the island earlier this week.
The RSS confirmed that a contingent of service personnel was deployed on Tuesday at the government’s request, to assist the Dominica Police Force in ensuring there is a safe and secure environment in the country during the general election period.
But the Opposition Leader has criticized Skerrit for bringing in foreign troops “to be on Dominican soil intimidating people around the time of election just because they have stood up for free and fair elections”.