Mon | Aug 21, 2017

Why should we elect the JLP?

Published:Wednesday | January 27, 2016 | 1:00 AM

With business and consumer confidence on the upswing, Forbes telling us that Jamaica's ease of doing business has made us number one in the region, and overall moderate growth in the economy is predicted, the JLP's electability test just became a lot more difficult.

With international ratings agency Standard and Poor's placing on record that the JLP has committed itself to the continuation of the same set of IMF reform policies that are being pursued by the present PNP administration, it makes it much more difficult for the Opposition JLP to draw sharply contrasting policy differences that will attract an apathetic electorate.

It is accepted that the electorate will forgive an administration for its missteps in its first term, especially if they are covered under policy failures, touches of arrogance and our long flirtation with corruption. It becomes more difficult after two terms.

In the 2007 to 2011 period, the nation was not prepared to forgive the JLP government for its atrocious handling of the Dudus extradition. The nation was captivated by the perception that then prime minister, Bruce Golding, was standing up for the rights of a homegrown international renegade. After that the JLP was toast.

Should sufficient numbers of people at street level see the translation of the fairly impressive indicators at the macro level as having impact on their lives, especially in them finding jobs, then there is the likelihood that the electorate may decide to give the PNP another shot at governance at the next elections.

It is quite difficult for the JLP to prove what it can do as a government when it needs power to do that. It therefore, requires the ruling PNP to have demonstrated radical policy failures with no attempt to fix those failures to convince the electorate that its dislodgment is required. At the same time, the Opposition needs to be consistently defining those failures while launching a believable message that it can fix the main bugs in the system.

 

RELYING ON POLL RESULTS

 

I am not so sure that we are at that spot right now.

Both parties, but especially the PNP, will be relying on poll results which are now being released and, as expected, their most ardent followers are into the season of wishful thinking.

I was most confounded by Opposition Leader Andrew Holness's statement that he has had to keep in check those at street level who are eager to take to the streets.

One got the distinct impression that he wanted the nation to see him as the statesman brokering the peace. My interactions with many at street level in the latter part of last year indicated that it was mostly a fringe element of JLP partisans who were agitating for taking to the streets.

I did not get the sense that a natural groundswell across party lines, and especially among the under-35 age grouping, existed. What I was constantly picking up was a general 'pox on them both', but with no intention to take to the streets. Many young people saw themselves as the masters of their own fate, and the politics was seen as the main stumbling block to their betterment.

To take to the streets would be to make themselves as pawns for at least one of the political parties. That they had no intention of doing.

 

CRUCIAL DECISION

 

Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller would by now recognise that too many voices all speaking at the same time provide nothing but a cacophony that doesn't help her in making the crucial decision staring her in the face.

Members of her management team, along with the strategists in the JLP, have been mapping out the constituencies seat by seat, and the nation will be especially glued to the excitement which will be generated by the contest between Imani Duncan-Price and Juliet Holness in East Rural St Andrew.

PNP strategists are planning to mount a genuine challenge to Andrew Holness in his constituency of West Central St Andrew. "The idea is to keep him tied down in his constituency in the weeks before the election. He will not be able to give his wife and other MPs any assistance," one said to me on Monday.

"But isn't that expected by him?" I asked.

"Even if it is, you have to bear in mind that his seat is not the guarantee win that Portia has in her South West St Andrew seat. Portia can afford to campaign all over the island and her seat will still be safe. Holness cannot afford to do that, and we know he will want to campaign along with his wife. We will have him soft."

- Mark Wignall is a political analyst. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and observemark@gmail.com.