In both Great Britain and Dominica, the 5th of May 2005 saw the return of Labour Governments in democratically held elections. The results, however, conveyed some poignant messages from the electorate, of which the politicians should take heed.
That Tony Blair has secured an historic 3rd term in office for Great Britain's Labour Party is a reflection of the skill with which he and his administration have managed the country's domestic affairs - the economy and public services. That his majority was significantly reduced was without doubt due to Britain's involvement in the Iraq war. The protest was not so much that Britain fought this war, but rather the circumstances in which it was launched:-
a) at the behest of a leader at the other side of the Atlantic for who most Brits have little affection, seemingly motivated by the lure of lucrative oil contracts and with a disregard for international convention.
b) without the sanction of the United Nations.
c) in the face of mass public protests and demonstrations, not simply in Britain, but world-wide.
d) under false pretences - justification was cited as possession by Iraq of WMD's (weapons of mass destruction) none of which had been found then or have been found since.
e) in such haste, at a time when Iraq was already under intense scrutiny and border control, posing no immediate threat, and when weapons inspectors were pleading for more time to complete their work.
For this gross error of judgement, Mr Blair has been punished, his credibility seriously impaired. This message was made loud and clear on election day by the voice of Mr. Galloway, an Independent who unseated a popular Labour incumbent in a London borough by campaigning solely on this issue. The lesson to be learnt from this is that when the people speak, their leaders should listen.
The negative effects of the Iraq war have been felt all around the globe, even in tiny Dominica. A young lady from the west coast village of Saint Joseph went to America, got her green card, joined the forces, then got sent to Iraq. News reached Dominica only this month that an incident has left her with serious internal injuries.
Dominica (Commonwealth of) gained independence from Great Britain in 1978,
inheriting a Westminster style government. The House of Assembly has 21 elected members of parliament and a handful of appointed senators. The island's total population is around 70,000 and voter turnout in this election was a healthy 38,953.
Despite a negative campaign fought by both major parties, people on the whole conducted themselves in an orderly and mature manner, with no serious incidents to mar the occasion. Polling stations were well organized and manned, leaving little scope for irregularity. The only bone of contention was the east coast constituency of Castle Bruce, which was decided on a recount by just one single vote, understandably leaving the loosing candidate and his party supporters feeling robbed and disgruntled.
A Labour/Freedom Party coalition has now been succeeded by an outright Dominica Labour Party majority. The coalition government has survived a very difficult first five years in office, having inherited massive debt, a bloated civil service and a tarnished reputation, the burden of which claimed the lives of two successive Labour Prime Ministers - Roosevelt Douglas and Pierre Charles - in the space of only 4 years. Dominica now has a young, bright, articulate and energetic Prime Minister in Honourable Roosevelt Skerrit, who has already made a positive impact during just 14 months in office. With the mandate of the electorate, he can now feel confident to take the important decisions needed to address Dominica's problems and take the country forward.
So can lessons be learnt also from this election result? The UWP might reflect that the electorate have not forgotten the reasons why they denied them a second term in office at the last general election and are not yet ready to forgive them. The outgoing Freedom Party ministers should perhaps reflect that there is more to tourism than cruise ship arrival figures, that a proposed oil refinery on the shores of our precious nature isle, which would have had a negative ecological impact, was maybe not such a good idea after all, and that investment by DSS - custodian of funds for our pensions and health care - in a failed and bankrupt business, was maybe not such a good idea either. The bold leadership of Eugenia Charles is but a distant memory and support for the Freedom Party has now dwindled to the point where it failed to gain them even a single seat this time round. A mistake Dominican politicians should not make is to underestimate the intelligence of the electorate or to take its support for granted. Dominicans at all levels of society value and enjoy their democracy and just love to discuss politics. They expect their parliamentary representatives to conduct themselves with integrity, transparency and with the best interests of the country and its people at heart. If that is not delivered, then they can be a pretty unforgiving lot.
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