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Page 1 Editorial - Reaping democracy’s dividend

Published:Wednesday | February 24, 2016 | 12:34 AM

This newspaper is not surprised at the conclusion by the head of the Organization of American States’ observer mission of the preparedness of Jamaica’s election machinery to manage national polls and the continuing efforts to improve the system. Monday’s early voting by members of the security forces and electoral workers demonstrated this capacity.

It wasn’t always this way. Nearly 40 years ago, Jamaica had among the world’s most violence-riddled elections. Hundreds died during the campaign season, and while election outcomes largely reflected the will of the majority, in too many cases it was not a case of one person, one vote. Nor were elections free and fair, nor free from fear.

It demanded great effort and much goodwill to fix the election system for it to be a model to others, and for someone like Janet Bostwick to acknowledge Jamaica’s leadership in the region for its electoral apparatus. But we also know that systems, no matter how good, can be improved and, critically, undermined. Herein lies our concern.

There have been hints of violence associated with, if not directly linked to, the campaign, suggestions of intimidation, and allegations of attempted vote-buying – all of which are illegal – and which, if true, would bring Jamaica’s democracy into disrepute. It would mean a squandering by the political parties and their acolytes of an investment in something greater than our individual selves – the lasting dividend of democracy – for transient and narrow power.

The political leadership, we hope, appreciates this. Tomorrow is another important test for Jamaica’s democracy, which the country cannot afford to fail.