Thu | Aug 17, 2017

Mark Wignall | More energy in its base gave the JLP its predictable win

Published:Thursday | December 1, 2016 | 12:00 AM

On the eve of the parish council elections JLP chairman, Robert 'Bobby' Montague, transmitted the following info to me: "We gonna lose Westmoreland, but win about four seats. Manchester is a struggle and St Thomas is tight. KSAC will be hand-to-hand, but we have the organisational machinery to take it. Red Hills division is critical."

Meanwhile the Portland 'king,' the JLP's Daryl Vaz, was his usual feisty self, casting aside all modesty and telling everyone who would listen that, "All four in West Portland and three out of five in East will be in the JLP's column at the closing of the polls. I will have one of the highest voter turnouts again of 63 per cent."

With an islandwide turnout of 30 per cent, that again was no surprise. Taken on that trajectory, with 'all things remaining the same', we can predict the date that an election turnout in the local government elections reaches five per cent and the whole exercise is ditched.

The fact, however, is there was always going to be a winner and a loser and the pundits had no surprises awaiting us like in February last.

As part of the election panel at Nationwide Radio, as the last part of the results came in and it was obvious that the JLP would snatch back control from its wipeout in 2012, I couldn't help but take notice of the sotto voce comments from one panellist with PNP roots.

"Holness must know that a one-seat advantage must now be tackled. I expect a general election next year."

In the euphoria of the moment, some amount of pragmatism many have been lost on us even as I agreed that PM Holness's political side could trigger him into becoming a 'chess grandmaster' and generating a pretext for calling new general election in 2017 or 2018, long before it is due in 2020.

No more elections now. Focus is strictly on governance, says Montague.

The day after the elections, I was getting two different views from Vaz and Montague,

key members of the JLP administration. The views were probably made based on their respective personalities. Vaz wanted the whole hog soon.

"Thirty-two to 31 is untenable for long term, especially if PNP's threat to withdraw cooperation in Parliament continues."

Montague was more disposed to considering all aspects of the national picture.

 

NO INTEREST IN ELECTIONS

 

"It is quite obvious to me that the population is not now interested in any more elections. I believe the people would punish us for calling another election next year or the year after. Plus, we should be increasing our parliamentary seat count by one soon. As a government which has seen gains, we have to step up the focus to growth areas. It will be strictly governance from here on," he said.

Meanwhile, the PNP's disarray continues. First, even though we know that losing at anything is painful, that was no excuse for the Opposition leader failing to show up at PNP party headquarters to commiserate with her most ardent supporters. This merely continues the character flaw she has demonstrated since 2007.

"You know that I have always loved Portia," said Belinda, a lady friend of mine in her early 60s. 'After hearing her ranting and raving about 'nuh buay and nuh gal', I was ashamed and I didn't vote. The PNP is still my party but Portia has to go."

The Holness-led administration now has nothing politically in the way for it to do anything but lay out more coherent steps for governance. The rotting part of the governance fruit is violent crime, and National Security Minister Bobby Montague will be the key player in the broad-based initiative being laid out.

"Minister, if there was anything that I believe could have tripped up the JLP on Monday, it was crime. Even though only the base of both parties showed up, for the sake of your party, that did not seem to have been a factor," I put to him on Tuesday.

"As the minister, I know that the buck must stop with me. But, I believe our people have matured, and in the many town halls that I have had, the people understand that it has to be a concerted effort. That is what I will be driving," Montague said.

observemark@gmail.com