ST. JOHN’S, Antigua -- A protest over election reform erupted on the Caribbean island of Dominica, with more than 200 people fighting police before being dispersed with tear gas, officials said Tuesday.
The former French and British colony of about 75,000 residents holds elections on Dec. 6. The opposition United Workers’ Party has been pushing the ruling party to enact reforms that could reduce the ruling party’s electoral advantage.
Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit’s government has not enacted the reforms, leading to charges of unfairness.
Assistant Police Commissioner Richmond Valentine said more 200 protesters clashed with police when they tried to march to President Charles Savarin’s home Monday night to call for reforms.
Police fired tear gas after protesters removed street barricades during the confrontation in Roseau, the capital. No fatalities or major injuries were reported.
In a televised address Tuesday morning, Skerrit said the protest “signaled the intrusion of violence into the election campaign in a manner that is unfamiliar, unnecessary and unproductive.”
Valentine said protesters wanted to see the president to make the case for more rigorous checking of voter registrations and a prohibition on expatriate Dominican citizens returning to vote in elections. The opposition has accused the government of buying voters by providing supporters with tickets home around election time.
“That is what they were advocating, that they wanted to see the president,” Valentine said.
General Manager Jose Abreu of the nearby Fort Young Hotel told The Associated Press that guests were affected by the tear gas for a brief period, though none needed medical attention.
Calls and messages to opposition leader Lennox Linton went unanswered.