Wed | Aug 16, 2017

JLP needs miracle turnout

Published:Wednesday | February 10, 2016 | 2:00 AM

From all the poll numbers I have seen and the general 'pox on both your houses' that exists at street level, especially among those under 35, indications are that the February 25 election will attract another low turnout of registered voters.

This is bad news for the opposition JLP and probably explains why the opposition leader and other key speakers for the JLP are spouting off with wild promises that nevertheless are par for the course in this silly season.

Reader Lennox Parkins, who tells me he has studied past elections in Jamaica from a statistical and behavioural perspective, has correctly pointed out that a high turnout favours the Opposition, while a moderate number of voters showing up on election day will make the win easier for the party in power.

According to him, "The greater the turnout ratio above 68%, the greater the likelihood that the popular vote results will swing to the Opposition." He is correct in this assessment.

 

NO HOPE IN OPPOSITION

 

Although there is sufficient anger stored up among the electorate for both political parties and many PNP loyalists are feeling the economic pinch like their JLP peers, it seems to me that likely voters have not bought into the view that voting out the PNP and electing the JLP will bring a solution to the general problem.

The last election had a turnout of 53%, which the PNP won by more than 58,000 votes. In that election, there were four surprises. In West Rural St Andrew, the PNP's Paul Buchanan broke the mould by having a superior ground game on election day and sent home the JLP's Andrew Gallimore, who eventually said goodbye to party politics.

With a low turnout of just under 47%, Buchanan won by a piddling 237 votes. 'Buck', as he is known to the constituents of West Rural, is again thought to have a superior ground game to the JLP's Juliet Cuthbert-Flynn, a newcomer to politics. The JLP needs to get out the middle-class vote in the large constituency for it to win. I have seen nothing to indicate that that is likely to happen.

The JLP was almost brought to tears as the highly respected Christopher Tufton lost by 13 votes in his run in St Elizabeth South West, with the turnout of 68 per cent giving the PNP the win. The constituency relies on farming and is always in the cross hairs of drought.

On the bright lights in the JLP, Floyd Green believes that he will be able to topple the sitting MP, the PNP's Hugh Buchanan. For that, he will need a turnout greater than in 2011.

In Western St Mary, Bobby Montague was the other surprise for the JLP, losing the seat by 227 votes in a 60 per cent turnout, higher than the national average.

The JLP fancies that it has a credible shot this time around, as the PNP's Jolyan Silvera is said to have lost some of his 2011 effectiveness, especially among the perennially unemployed youth across the constituency. The PNP, of course, sees it differently.

Montague needs a turnout significantly more than 60 per cent to snatch this seat from the PNP. That will require that his getting-out-the-vote organisation on February 25 is in tip-top shape and he is well-funded. Organisation-wise, I give Montague the edge, but the voter turnout may be the unpleasant and unwelcome spoke in his wheel.

 

CHANGES TO THE BALLOT

 

In 2011, one of the new stars in the PNP stepped on to the stage and, with his feisty and confident run, won the East Rural St Andrew seat. Damion Crawford triumphed by 259 votes, which seemed to shock only the JLP, which saw its own star of the 1980s, Joan Gordon-Webley, beaten in a 58 per cent turnout.

Quite a number of things have happened since. Crawford's new style of politics has turned off the traditionalists, and he has been replaced. As if to rub it in the JLP wound, Gordon-Webley has effectively joined the ranks of the PNP and is operating with constant loser, Patrick Roberts, who believes that this time around, he will be able to boot none other than Opposition Leader Andrew Holness from his own West Central St Andrew seat.

"Joan is an integral part of our team in West Central St Andrew," said a PNP source, who didn't want his name mentioned. "The funders and our ground organisers are quite serious about taking this seat into the PNP column.

"The PNP intends to win this seat by 400 votes."

"Good luck with that," I said.

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