PORTIA Simpson Miller and the People’s National Party (PNP) have been given a mandate to form the next Government in Jamaica. The electorate spoke in a resounding voice – by a margin of 41-22 seats – and rejected the incumbent Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and its ‘young’ leader Andrew Holness.
As I write, the results are preliminary and are subject to a process of recounting. However, the margin is so wide that it may well be safe to accept that the Government has changed hands. The PNP has now won 9 of the 16 General Elections; and the JLP 7.
The foregoing is a matter of record and for the history books. However, there are a few things worth reviewing.
Going into the elections, there were, at least, 3 major polls. I stand to be corrected, however, I believe that only one predicted a marginal victory for the PNP. The common factor among all 3, however, was that the election would be extremely close. While Don Anderson’s poll was (again) accurate in its prediction of a PNP win, it was arguably off base on the margin. Indeed, word on the street was that it was ‘too close to call’.
I had great concerns about this ‘too close to call’ notion and viewed it as an indictment on both parties that the electorate was unable to separate the two and make a choice. Indeed, too often did I hear the cry from my peers: ‘I feel I have no choice; because there is no difference between the two’. Many of these persons did NOT vote! In fact, and again, I stand to be corrected, but preliminary information puts voter turnout in the high 40s (percentage). This means that from a pool of almost 1.6 million Jamaicans who were enumerated to vote – forty to Fifty percent of us showed up at the polling stations.
When we disaggregate the data (given that there were not a lot of major landslide victories in individual constituencies) it becomes apparent that the PNP received a mandate from somewhere between twenty to thirty percent of the entire electorate (albeit that it equates to a majority or the ‘popular vote’ from those who chose to exercise their franchise).* This cannot, by any stretch of the imagination, be a good thing.
The electorate is angry that we cannot seem to see the good in either of the major political parties that have dominated our lives for the past almost fifty years. Little in what they have said or done, in contemporary times, seems to provide hope that either of them can lead us to prosperity. We’re seeing ‘red‘, while searching for ‘green’!
The JLP’s Demise
In my opinion, the JLP lost this election because of two (maybe three) things:
- The times are economically challenging – the cost of living is way too high on meagre (or non existent) salaries.
- Jamaicans lost faith (trust) in the JLP and its leaders to be honest with the nation. The Government developed a habit of being less than candid, until information was unearth. In those instances, its first reaction was to lie, until more evidence was provided. In the face of the mounting evidence, it would then recant its previous position and attempt damage control.
- An extension of item 2 really: the JLP simply did not know how to communicate with the nation.
In this vein, from where I sit, I believe that it may well be fair to say that it was more a case of the JLP losing the election; rather than the PNP winning. Remember, there really is no difference between the two and the PNP has no higher moral ground on which to stand – save that people were just fed up with continually giving the JLP a chance to succeed while they just kept shooting themselves in the foot.
Be it the Manatt issue or the United States’ plane flying over Tivoli or the infractions associated with the Jamaica Infrastructure Development Programme (JDIP); the JLP simply failed to be honest with the nation and have reaped the consequences. These relatively minor issues and their terrible management of the resulting flax has overshadowed the many accomplishments of the administration and resulted in its demise.
The Silent Voice
Many persons may not say it even now; but there was also a perceived vindictive nature of the outgoing administration, which caused people to fear losing their jobs. People kept quiet and overlooked many concerns. Persons also avoided voicing their opinions. And, as the situation intensified, I (for one) saw a correlation between the ‘undecided voters’ and those who were simply fed up with the administration – but who were afraid to speak.
Those persons – who dared not to even speak to the pollsters, or to their friends or to their co-workers or to their family members – got their opportunity to speak through their ballots! They spoke resoundingly and baffled – I dare say – even the PNP, who (in its wildest dreams) could not have predicted such a margin of victory.
On to the future
In this vein, I say to the Hon. Portia Simpson Miller and to the PNP: this is a new day, a different and a more mature type of electorate! You are the victor of the spoils; but your victory will be bitter-sweet if you dare to take the same path as the JLP. Jamaicans are looking for a new and different type of governance. We are looking for and expecting dialogue, integrity and transparency. We are looking for accountability and fiscal prudence in the handling of our tax-paying dollar. And if you fail to hold yourselves accountable – we – the people – will hold you to it!
The Nation Waits
I say to Andrew Holness, the nation needs a loyal and vibrant opposition – take on the job! To Portia Simpson Miller, I say: the nation needs a government of the people, for the people and by the people – honour the mandate that you have received! To the nation, I say: we all have a responsibility to hold our leaders accountable – get involved, stay abreast of the issues, speak out against injustices and let your voice be heard. AND, for those who are not enumerated – get enumerated! In five years, it will be decision time again … if the PNP ‘forms the fool’ [in Jamaican parlance] – at that time – we can send them the same message we sent to the JLP yesterday.
And we’ll do it over and over and over again Deo volente until both parties and their leaders get the message: “They are called to serve – not to rule!”
There goes my people. I must follow them, for I am their leader. – Mahatma Ghandi
May God bless Jamaica – Land We Love!
Walk good, ’til next time …
Disclaimer: *This represents my own interpretation of the anecdotal/reported data and cannot be relied on as statistical fact.