St Georges, Grenada (TDN) – The CARICOM countries of Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados and Grenada are scheduled to hold general elections during 2018. While only the date for Grenada has been set, it is expected that the prime ministers of Antigua and Barbuda and Barbados will announce dates shortly to coincide with the first half of 2018. In Grenada, Prime Minister Keith Mitchel who holds a 15 – 0 seat majority in the country’s parliament have set March 13 as election day. At the same time, the man who has served as prime minister for over 18 years, although not consecutively, announced that this will be his last term in office if elected. Recently Michel have faced criticism over the handling of his country’s Citizenship by Investment program but political observers expect his ruling party to win reelection at the polls. In Barbados the fate of Freundel Stuart prime minister since 2010, and his Democratic Labour Party is a bit more uncertain as he clings on to a two seat majority in the 30 member parliament. Added to his woes is the worsening economic situation in that country, which has been seized upon by his opponents. The government have imposed a series of new taxes on the populace in the recent past as it tries to compensate for a dramatic fall in tourism revenue, which is the country’s main economic driver. Restrictions have also being placed on accessing foreign exchange as reserves at the Central Bank dwindles. Crime is also on the rise as the economic situation worsens. It is widely expected that a date will be announced in the coming weeks for the holding of election sometime before June 2018. Meanwhile in Antigua and Barbuda prime minister Gaston Browne has signaled that the exact date for election, which is constitutionally due by mid-March, will be announced with very short notice noting that elections “will come like a thief in the night.” In the 2013 elections Browne’s Antigua Labour Party defeated the United Progressive Party of Baldwin Spencer whose party was in office for the previous ten years. He will be hoping to maintain his party’s 14 – 7 seat majority in Parliament. While elections in these three CARICOM countries are likely to proceed without too much concern for the process of free and fair elections, it’s the upcoming polls in Dominica constitutionally due in 2019 that is expected to capture the world’s attention. Prime minister Roosevelt Skerrit Dominica Labour Party government, which has been in office since 2000 have been accused by the opposition United Workers Party of gross election breaches including the bribery of voters and wholescale importation of voters , some illegal, from overseas to vote in marginal constituencies. With elections less than two years away, all calls for cleansing of the bloated voters lists, which has more registered voters than the country’s population has so far gone unheeded. CARICOM countries including Grenada, Antigua and Barbuda and St Vincent and the Grenadines when faced with similarly bloated voters list all made the decision to have the list cleansed through voter reregistration.
It will be interesting to see whether CARICOM, the Organization of American States (OAS) and the Commonwealth grouping will continue to remain silent in the face of Skerrit’s continuing abuse of the electoral process in Dominica.