Thu | Aug 17, 2017

Road map to a likely PNP victory?

Published:Wednesday | February 3, 2016 | 2:00 AM
People's National Party President Portia Simpson Miller, speaking at Sunday's mass rally in Half-Way Tree, says her party will whip the JLP in the February 25 polls.

The sea of orange-clad supporters of the ruling PNP on Sunday had to have been intimidating to an opposition JLP that wants to take away its power. Add to that the levels of organisation and funding that fuelled the massive crowd and it would have been enough to leave the JLP leader somewhat crestfallen.

The JLP can, of course, take away from this shock-and-awe crowd that in 1980 when the ruling PNP launched its campaign at Sam Sharpe Square and declared that "150,000 strong can't be wrong", the PNP eventually suffered the worst defeat that any party in Jamaica has ever registered.

This time around, things are, shall we say, a bit different. In 1980, violent crime and political gunfire was the norm, and in many sections of Kingston, St Andrew and Spanish Town, after 5 p.m., it was close to civil war, as the green and orange guns barked and blood was spilled in the streets.

In 1980, the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ), which was still in its infancy, had made no bones about where its objectives lay: rescuing Jamaica from a PNP Government that had gone adrift and had not a clue how to find a safe and secure spot beside the shore.

 

FULL-BLOWN ANARCHY

 

In the previous six years, Jamaica had lost much of its management class and the society in the period 1976 to 1980 was heading from chaos into full-blown anarchy. The economy was shot to hell.

This time around, things are a bit different. It appears to me and many others that the most influential people in the PSOJ are fully on board with the present direction of the PNP administration. Not that they share agreement on specific policy initiatives. No, they are giving kudos to the Government for its IMF-induced fiscal direction.

Violent crime is still a back-breaking problem for us and every security minister, but in the present instance, there are no visible signs that shootings are party politically related. Unlike 1980 when violent criminality and murders were the number one concern, at present, unemployment is the focus, if not the active solution being worked on.

I was not at Half-Way Tree last Sunday as the PNP mobilised every person and his cousin into orange, smiles, loud laughter, ganja smoking and confidence.

That last word, confidence, is what may be the undoing of the Opposition JLP. In addition to Portia giving the JLP just a few weeks to put together a message that had not been there in the first place.

 

POLITICAL GIMMICK

 

The JLP's catchphrase of 'Poverty to Prosperity' is correct on all counts just as much as it is a laughable political gimmick. It fits into the same window pane as Bobby Pickersgill's promise to the nation in the PNP's election campaign promise of 2002 that 'Jamaica will be pothole-free by 2003'. We all know how that ended up. Just look around you.

A friend of mine, a journalist, who was at Half-Way Tree on Sunday, called me when he was there and said, "Mark, I have never seen anything like this." That was at 5 p.m. or thereabouts.

At 8 p.m., he called again. "I am no expert at estimating the size of this crowd, but every area in Half-Way Tree, including all plazas nearby, are corked. And a steady stream of orange-clad people are moving towards the area. Up from Maxfield Avenue, down from Constant Spring Road. They are coming from Cross Roads area and from Hope Road. It's an unstoppable stream of people."

Another told me that at its lowest, it could be 25,000, and at mid-point, 40,000. I suspect it was much more.

The JLP has not had a coherent message in the election campaign, which has been on since the latter part of last year. At this stage where it has convinced itself that the PNP was carrying too many unfinished bouts of constituency rifts from 2015 into 2016, the PNP has proven it dead wrong and now looks like an unstoppable force.

The ruling PNP has been able to define the JLP as an afterthought in the political process, but both political parties will have to admit that those who are likely to vote for them come February 25 are just the basic core of the PNP and the JLP.

On that basis, there is nothing to crow about. That, of course, is not very important to the PNP at this stage. If we can go by looks alone, that intimidating one that the PNP bared to the JLP last Sunday is surely one that will leave the JLP quaking in its boots.

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