Jamaicans go to the polls on Thursday morning to choose the political party that will lead the country for the next five years.
Jamaica’s parliamentary system is closely similar to its old colonial master’s system, voters in designated constituencies chose a member of parliament from the Jamaica Labor Party (JLP), the People’s National Party (PNP), or from the other peripheral disorganized parties that say they are in the runnings, none of which has been able to secure a seat in the nation’s 63 seat legislature.
Depending on the party that wins the most seats in the legislature, that party is asked by the (Governor-General) the Queen’s representative, to form the next Government.
Don’t look at me, I have nothing to do with Jamaica’s decision to continue maintaining a costly Governor-General, or worse, having the Queen of England, as a titular head of our Government.
Stockholm syndrome? Your guess is as good as mine.
On the ballot, tomorrow is a range of issues that plague Jamaica, as they plague other larger more powerful nations. Crime and violence. Poverty. COVID-19, and a host of social problems that will always be a part of the political and social landscape.
I believe that objectively, the present Administration of the JLP led by the Young Andrew Holness has done a somewhat admirable job. At the same time, I want to quickly juxtapose the Prime Minister and his Government’s performance with a slew of failings that should never have occurred.
For example the slew of corruption scandals than came to define the party that members of his cabinet and others within the party engaged in.
None of this should have happened, and it is not good enough to say, “the PNP did it too’. Either you are better and a credible alternative, or you are not.
I still believe this is an election for the JLP to lose. The nation’s COVID response under the Prime Minister and Health Minister Christopher Tufton has been one of the most forward-leaning anywhere in the world.
That the infection rate is on the rise in the country, cannot credibly be laid at the feet of the Government, it belongs squarely in the column of the lawlessness that has characterized far too many of the Jamaican people.
This administration, like past PNP administrations, has not done a credible job of getting to the root of the gangs, and by extension, the gang-violence that emanates from that failure. This ultimately drives the murder rate and other violent and brazen crimes in our country.
If the JLP loses this election tomorrow night, [which I doubt it will] its post mortem examination will not reflect that it is because Peter Phillips and the PNP promised Jamaicans to pay everyone’s light bill, at a time when his party can hardly keep the lights on at party headquarters. Nor will it be from the litany of lies they have told in order to be once again given the reins of power, neither will it be that they promised all things free to all people.
It most assuredly is the Government’s marginalizing of the police. The corruption that plagued the administration and the increasing levels of murders that continue to go unsolved.
This election is critical for the two parties, if the JLP loses the election it will solidify the narrative that some of the more radical elements on the PNP’s far left has used for a couple of decades now. That narrative says that the JLP is a filler party that is voted in, only when the people are tired of the PNP and needs a break.
The general idea is that the Jamaican people do not trust to give the JLP more than one term in office.
This narrative started after the JLP’s Edward Seaga called a snap election in 1983, a mere three years after taking office in 1980.
In the 1980 elections, Seaga & the JLP swept into power on a 51 – 9 seat majority. At the time the legislature had a total of (60) seats as opposed to the sixty-three (63) that exists today. The PNP did not contest the snap elections of 1983, it chose not to, because it knew it would be humiliated once again at the polls.
Instead, it chose to label the JLP a bogus Government. Slander, and hyperbole over fidelity to duty.
Nevertheless, by 1988 the very same Michael Manley who was swept out of office on a tsunami of dissent, was back in office when all of the votes were counted.….… or more like when the ballot box stuffing was over in the plethora of PNP garrisons across the country, in which there are generally tens of thousands more votes cast for the PNP, than there were people living in the constituencies.
Such is Jamaican politics, both parties have systematically engaged in these practices, the PNP has always been much better at it.
Michael Manley stayed on as Prime Minister until he was forced to demit office before his term ended due to ill-health. His then Deputy Percival James Patterson took over and the demise and destruction of our country were complete.
Despite Patterson, Portia Simpson Miller, and the PNP’s ineptitude, gross corruption, and incomprehensible incompetence and graft, the JLP was only returned to office in 2007.
The JLP’s Bruce Golding formed the new JLP administration but Golding was forced to himself demit office over the Christopher Duddus scandal known more as the Mannat Phelps and Phillips scandal.
A young Andrew Holness took over as Prime Minister after Golding left, and he sought to get his own mandate but it was not to be.….. at least not yet. The people soured on Golding’s handling of the Mannat Phelps and Phillips scandal, and so they turned to the disjointed, out of ideas PNP, and an even more hopeless Portia Simpson Miller, whose claim to fame is populism and longevity in her party and nothing more.
On the 5th of January 2012, Portia Simpson Miller was sworn in as Prime Minister of Jamaica defeating Andrew Holness, who was forced to start over and cultivate and create his own bona fides. Simpson miller herself had taken over as Prime Minister from P J Patterson on the 30th of March 2005, she was defeated at the polls by the Bruce Golding led JLP.
Nevertheless, by March 3rd of 2016, Andrew Michael Holness was once again the Prime Minister of Jamaica.
Not since Edward Seaga led the JLP to a resounding victory at the polls in 1980, have the JLP been elected to two consecutive terms in office.
If Andrew Holness can pull off a win tomorrow that monkey will forever be off the back of the JLP.
If he loses, it will be because of the scandals that occurred on his watch and that’s it.
If on the other hand, the PNP’s Peter Phillips fails to lead his party to a victory, he will be the only leader of the PNP in its history not to have been elected Prime Minister, assuming that he realizes that it is his time to go and allow younger leaders to develop.
This article has been updated to more accurately speak to Dr. Phillip’s role as party leader.
Mike Beckles is a former police Detective corporal, businessman, freelance writer, he is a black achiever honoree, and publisher of the blog mikebeckles.com.
He’s also a contributor to several websites.
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