Sat | Oct 21, 2017

Ready for national election

Published:Sunday | May 10, 2015 | 12:00 AM

The Constitution of Jamaica does not make provision for a fixed national election date. As such, the prime minister has free will to play with the timing for elections. The process of determining the date is not always under the control and manipulation of the prime minister and the governing party. In this time, we are having events overtake the calling of national elections. Elections are in the air.

Local government elections are due by the end of June 2015. The Government has been claiming lack of funds to meet public-sector wage demands. This will provide an opportunity to save some big money by having both the local and parliamentary general elections on the same day. Can you hear the gloating by the governing party? We are fiscally responsible. We manage government funds in a most prudent manner. Both parties are aware of this and have made announcements that their slates of candidates are in place or very close to being settled.

 

JLP's conflicting messages

 

The electoral machinery in the Electoral Office of Jamaica (EOJ) has been primed. This week, the EOJ was provided with more than JS100 million. The Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), as usual, is sending conflicting messages. Audley Shaw prefers that no election be held on an outdated voters' list. The always-vexed Desmond McKenzie is calling for elections now. Who has the predominant message? I suspect the party will not do as the PNP in 1983 and not contest the election based on an outdated list.

The internal fighting is on in earnest. Court proceedings, injunctions and allegations by senior party representatives to all manner of external events are very evident. The PNP does not want to rock the boat in Hanover at this time. Mr Samuda of the JLP is accusatory of the general secretary and has resigned from the Standing Committee. He has retreated to his constituency. Note, he did not take a leave of absence from the party. He wants to assure his personal re-election. Elections are in the air.

The leaders of both major parties are out on the hustings. Andrew Holness should not be able to breach the Constitution as he bonds with the electorate in St Elizabeth over four days. The PNP is at Campion College, a relatively new venue, but one likely to attract the kind of voters labelled the 'articulate minority'. This group is not seen as committed to the PNP given their vocal outbursts regarding the Goat Islands and the NHT-Outameni episode.

 

public-sector wage talks

 

The JLP is trumpeting the no-growth state of the economy and the PNP declares that by getting the macroeconomic ratios right, growth will come. The electorate listens to all this chatter and wonders where the jobs are and where the next meal is coming from.

The Government is tiptoeing on eggshells as they enter the public-sector wage talks. Can you imagine what a general strike by these workers would do to this economy? The Government desperately seeks to retain social cohesion and prays to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other foreign gods. Tax collection is already trending in the wrong direction and could derail the success of passing several IMF tests. The people do not share in the results of these successful tests. One remedy which buys time is to call early elections. The PNP is likely to do just that.

While the economy falters, crime grows as a Grim Reaper. Look for the Government to engage in sideshows that are all of its own making. First up will be the CCJ sideshow. The PNP desperately wants a CCJ parliamentary victory. I hope they fail. No to the CCJ. Yes to our own final court of appeal. In our 53rd year of Independence, why can we not have our indigenous institutions?

The JLP wants a national election to have its Constitution-offending leader have a victory. If the JLP loses the next national election, be it local government or parliamentary, that will be the third loss for Andrew Holness. One would then experience the calls for him to demit office as leader. No need to follow the blueprint as created by Edward Seaga. It is win time for the JLP.

 

JLP's Fate

 

The JLP needs to have the CCJ matter played out in the Upper and Lower Houses of Parliament. Will the party discipline hold in the Senate? Would he have embarked on the constitutional escapade to have his action vindicated politically or the independence of senators deal Holness a national loss. The tried formula has been brought out for immediate recycling. Montague goes to North America. He is immediately followed by P.J. Patterson. They both know the exchange rate US1 = J$115. Elections have to be funded.

Let the sideshow begin in earnest. Will Chris Tufton have a safe seat? Will Arthur Williams risk expulsion from his party? Will the leader of the Opposition, who the courts found to have acted unlawfully, continue to tell the security forces how to conduct investigations? Will the PNP recycle Phyllis Mitchell? Will Abe Dabdoub end up in Portland again as a parliamentary candidate or is it that both parties now want him at arm's length?

The election train has pulled into town. First, send in the clowns.

- Ronald Mason is an immigration attorney and Supreme Court mediator. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and nationsagenda@gmail.com.