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Front-page Editorial: Respect constitutional order

Published:Monday | February 29, 2016 | 2:00 AM

A cherished constant of Jamaica's democracy has been its adherence to constitutional processes, resulting in the regular and orderly transfer of power even at times when our intuitions have fallen under stress.

This is an issue on which Jamaica, rightly, is wont to lecture others as the Patterson government famously did in 2004 when a triumvirate of global powers helped to orchestrate and sustain a putsch against Haiti's then president, Jean Bertrand Aristide, etching their action on the manufactured faÁade of a contrived popular movement.

Jamaicans are now, again, directly confronted with their commitment to, and respect for, constitutional order as well as the rule of law in the face of last week's general election and its close outcome.

The preliminary count gave the opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) 33 of the 63 parliamentary seats. That party's presumed victory suggested a change of government and transfer of power.

As the law requires, final counts are ongoing. But the process, so far, has determined victory for the incumbent People's National Party (PNP) in St Mary South Eastern, moving its constituency count to 31 against the JLP's 32, in which case, the new government would enjoy a majority of only a single vote in the new Parliament.

The overturn of another seat would mean the PNP's retention of power.

 

TIME TO SHOW METTLE

 

In the circumstance, it is understandable for nerves to become frayed and tension to rise.

But it is in times like these that leadership matters, and commitment and adherence to constitutional principles is paramount. This is no time for the fanning of, or giving weight to, rumours or for the issuing of inflammatory statements about the intent of others that might incite supporters of one side or the other to violence or other forms of extra-judicial behaviour.

The Electoral Commission of Jamaica must be allowed to complete its count and issue its report on the result of the election, immediately after which there must be a formal transfer of power, in keeping with the Constitution and provisions of the Representation of the People Act. If candidates or their parties are dissatisfied with the declared outcomes, they can seek a magistrate's recount of the votes or seek other constitutional remedies in the Supreme Court.

As we welcome the calls for restraint, we hope that the parties have opened back-channel talks to prevent unintended actions that might disrupt constitutional order and Jamaica's deserved reputation as a maturing democracy worthy of respect.