Sometime in May 2020, a new political party was launched in Dominica namely, the Alternative Peoples’ Party-(APP).
The party describes itself as a progressive movement “born out of the resistance efforts of the Dominican people, especially women and younger citizens…a grassroots, coalition movement…that will always be an alternative movement, representing what is best for the people.” The APP is said to be conceptualized out of an urgent need for a well-structured and youthful alternative political movement on the island of Dominica, an idea that is manifested through a political party that essentially represents the structural bridge to democracy between the people and the government.
The new political party sees the welfare of the people of Dominica as a rallying call to duty, which will keep refreshing the needs for steadfastness, vigilance, and a sense of purpose in its determination to serve Dominicans, with the goal of serving as a movement for cohesive and progressive political action(s), both in and out of government.Accordingly, the party aims to:
– effectively serve and represent the people in and out of the Parliament of Dominica, and to create and maintain a healthy balance of Democracy in the governing authority of the state;
– address the priorities and general needs of the people and to serve as a bridge between the people and the institutions of authorities;
– serve as a fresh conduit to democratic reform, coalition building, and people relations on the island of Dominica and the Caribbean region; the sort of coalition which must be established for there to be successful pushback against the growing trends which frustrates traditional democratic ways; and
– create space for growth within the Dominican electoral system.
APP embraces the concept of collective success of our people and country. It has an all-inclusive agenda, focusing on women and youth in politics based on the key founding principle and belief in the supremacy of each individual person. As such, a key tenet of the party is an ongoing focus on good and clean politics; eliminating the possibilities and instances of political corruption on all fronts and at every level.
According to APP, Dominicans “have been demanding, far too long now, for a more progressive and inclusive attitude when it comes to public political discussion, and this thirst is quenched with a fresh burst of energy through an all-inclusive approach to leadership that the party provides.” In that regard, APP intendsto marshal forces together into a strong coalition which will work together for the good of the entire Dominican community – at home and abroad. Though the youth and women are expected to feature highly in our movement, every Dominican has a role to play. Its mission is to help build a more solid nation, because nation-building should always take precedence over partisanship. The APP hopes to be a bridge that connects the people to their government.
Philosophically, APP describes itself as a centre-right political movement built on firm democratic principles and from its launch it has demonstrated a willingness and readiness to work for a better, fairer, and brighter future for every Dominican. It has rolled up its sleeves and has been empowering grassroots community involvement. APP states that it is not involved in gutter politics and its focus is strictly on the progress and development of the country and its people.
The party believes in the promotion and safeguard of democratic principles. The party has vowed to oppose any initiative that ought to be opposed, while it pledges to agree and/or disagree with the oneness of purpose to transform the electoral political traditions of the island for the better. In that regard sometime in July 2020, the APP issued a press release in which it discussed Electoral Reform in Dominica. APP is of the view that, if the authorities keep to the promise to proceed with urgent reform, Dominica will have a fully reformed electoral system way before the next general elections, in which it hopes to participate and therefore it is expecting to be included in any and every reform exercise in Dominica.
APP has called for a united approach to electoral reform in such a way that people will be empowered to be more involved in the process of ushering necessary change. It acknowledges that the issue of electoral reform has come to occupy a prominent space in the political national discourse in recent times. Therefore, the party agrees with the call among Dominicans across the board for urgent electoral reform, if our nation’s democracy were to be sustained. It states with conviction, “Our electoral system must be reformed – if not completely overhauled…free and fair elections are the heartbeat of democracy, and where reform is threatened, the status quo grows uncontrollably powerful, the people suffer and there democratic backsliding. It is for this reasons that electoral reform in Dominica is front and center in the Alternative Peoples’ Party (APP’s) plans and objectives. In fact, we believe that a comprehensive overhaul of the system should be done before the next General Elections which are constitutionally due in 2025”
APP has promised to release a comprehensive electoral reform policy designed to be people friendly, which embodies its universal motto “People Together Working for One and Other.” The young party is convinced that its fresh ideas will revolutionize the approach of elections for Dominican governing officials and Dominica will serve as a model nation in terms of the representative make-up of the government, which will include the diaspora-resident legislatures. Consequently, when Sir Byron was announced as the “Sole Commissioner” by Prime Minister Skerrit, APP welcomed the idea and publicly expressed a willingness to have a hearing with the retired Chief Justice and to be part of the consultative process on electoral reform. The party noted that it looks forward to the opportunity to meet with Commissioner, Sir Dennis Byron
Cleansing of the list of Registered Voters
Like most political parties in Dominica, the APP has been very vocal in calling for the cleansing of the list of electors. However, unlike most parties, it strongly believes that one of the most effective ways of ensuring that is by political parties and interested parties utilizing the mechanism provided in existing legislation to scrutinize the lists of registered voters, identify those registered voters who are to be removed based on the legal criteria outline in the electoral laws and filing timely objection thereto before the Electoral Commission as prescribed in law. In fact, the party has had a dedicated radio program on its radio program, ‘The Peoples’ Hour on Q’ aimed at informing the and mobilizing the public to take appropriate action by placing objection petitions against questionable names on the list of electors.
An unreformed list of electors opens up the avenue for abuse of this solemn act of voting, and current electoral laws direct the Chief Elections Officer to rid the electors list of the name of unqualified electors. Voters whose names are cleansed from the current list of electors because of residency status, may be registered to vote in places that they reside – electronically – and to fully participate in our country’s election.
Vote In Place (VIP) initiative
In its response to the vexing issue of overseas-based Dominicans and their right to vote, APP has introduced a new initiative as part of the conversation that complements the cleansing exercise, by allowing citizens who reside overseas an opportunity to exercise their franchise to vote. APP believes that as part of its ‘all inclusive’ approach, Dominicans at home and abroad must have equally important roles to play in nation building and therefore its new initiative, ‘Vote-In- Place (VIP)’ appropriately addresses the problems experienced over the years with respect to facilitating the vote of Dominicans residing overseas or those who have stayed away from the jurisdiction for more than five (5) years.
APP has advanced its position for reforming the electoral system of Dominica modeled on what it claims are the ideas of Former President of Dominica Dr. Nicholas. Liverpool, who believed that the vote has been the most powerful force for change in community. Accordingly, Dominicans residing overseas will vote there, giving every Dominican citizen who wishes to and is duly qualified to vote an opportunity to vote for government representatives of their choice. VIP is therefore central to the party’s electoral platform as a way forward to include the diaspora in the electoral process in Dominica.
Among other initiatives, VIP, is the party’s proposal on the way forward with the much-debated need for electoral reform and the diaspora vote. The idea is for there to be two additional voting constituencies in the diaspora, one in the Northern hemisphere and the other covering the Southern hemisphere of the globe. Dominicans who reside anywhere in either hemisphere, and who are qualified to vote, will be able to vote for a northern or southern diaspora representative.
To qualify for VIP, citizens shall simply be required to appear in person – with proper proof of Dominican citizenship – to a Dominican consulate (bureau, embassy, office) in their particular locality or in an office closest to their place of resident) and fill out the necessary registration document. This is purely a voluntary basis and the electoral office ought not to be part of any mobilization or outreach beyond its normal mandate, which is to inform residents of the need to be registered to vote, educate them about the voting process and their rights as voters.
The registered citizen is then added to a databaseof Dominicans for voting purposes only, which shall be under the strict control of the Chief Elections Office. Candidates vying to be elected to the legislature of Dominica through the VIP process must be a Dominican citizen by birth or naturalization residing in the diaspora. The program will not allow the registration of persons who have acquired Dominica citizenship via the Citizen by Investment (CBI) program. This VIP policy, according to APP, will attract residency interest on the island and will allow for other categories of citizens to be assimilated into their Dominican residency. Therefore, Economic and other such categories of citizens, who reside in Dominica continually for a period of ten (10) years, will be able to vote in place.
A VIP Electoral candidate must not have citizenship allegiance to any other state. Essentially, APP is proposing that there should be two other parliamentary constituencies added to the Dominican legislature – the Northern and Southern Hemisphere Districts. These two Districts will represent the interest of Dominica and Dominicans, who reside out of the homeland by cultivating Dominican industries and entrepreneurship..
APP is of the view that this VIP initiative helps in bringing Dominicans together. It encourages peoples’ inclusion as a sure path to meaningful growth and success in a changing and dynamic world in which the concept of citizenship must be redefined in the era of social media and the rapidly emerging community forged through advancement of information technology. APP remains very confident of its approach, which it believes is achievable by engaging in broad and popular electoral-constitutional reform. .
App hopes to resolve the issue of potential voter-disenfranchisement with its bold new VIP initiative. Accordingly, “VIP is expected to establish, among other things, two additional hemispheric constituencies to the Dominican Parliament – one in the north and one in the south. Dominican citizens (by birth) who reside on either one of the hemispheres, and who do not meet the residency requirements to vote on island (following the cleansing of the list), will vote in place from wherever they reside. The vote will be done electronically for a designated representative who will address issues pertaining to the diaspora. The representative will assist with improving the local economy by coordinating international efforts and promoting new global initiatives to sensitize the Dominican economy.”
It would appear that the intention of VIP is to make the voting system fairer and designed to address the voter importation problem whereby political parties with the resources pay for the tickets of voters, some of whom are ineligible to vote to travel to Dominica to exercise their franchise. Whatever the merits or demerits of this proposal, its implementation, logistics appear to require further refinement. One hopes that when APP meets with the DLP’s Sole Commissioner, Sir Byron, the legislative impact and operationalization of this proposal will be fine-tuned if adopted.