Wed | Jul 18, 2018

Mark Wignall | Predictable and boring by-election

Published:Thursday | March 8, 2018 | 12:00 AM

All diehard voters, Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and People's National Party (PNP), elderly, middle-age and not so young, know that although elections are serious matters, without the carnival, the dance and a drink of rum had at the back of a bar, the full flavour of an election would never be properly defined and captured.

The by-election in NW St Andrew on Monday was, as expected, another JLP win. The losing candidate, the PNP's Keisha Hayle, has said that she only had three weeks to campaign, and she has implied in multiple Facebook posts that state resources to fix roads impacted her chances in negative ways.

"Hush Keisha, mi friend," I would say to her. I would also implore her to let go of her most recent complaint on that same medium that 'democracy has been injured and is now battling for its life in hospital'.

According to the losing candidate, 'fear and intimidation' were the order of the day, but she hasn't specified at which place in the constituency it took place and why has the executive of the PNP not shared her observations and complaints in press releases.

A quote from her post, "Democracy is on the hospital bed fighting for its life. What is needed ... is more Keisha Hayle to step up and be counted. Both candidates lost. Fear, hopelessness, intimidation won."

The lady is my friend, but I fear that this last, dramatic gasp of self-promotion will not do her cause in the near future much good. I have spoken to police personnel who were on the ground in Maverley, which I suspect is the area she made mention of. I have spoken to Associate Editor of The Gleaner Arthur Hall, who was actually fully engaged at many places in the division, and he has not been able to confirm that the sort of intimidation Hayle describes happened.

 

VOTER TURNOUT

 

On the other hand, long before the official results were reported, a minister of government called me to give me the results but also to complain that the election was "boring".

"As I told you a few days ago, we would win by about 1,500 and the turnout would be small. But, one of the striking things I observed is the visible lack of young people in many areas throughout the constituency. It is most puzzling, and it tells me that we politicians have a lot of work to do. Something is happening and we are not on top of it."

All the bigwigs in both political parties were out, and probably the reason why my politician friend said it was so boring is mostly likely related to the fact of the predictability of the results.

As much as some constituents complained about the poor state of the roads and even levelled harsh criticism against the outgoing MP Derrick Smith, they were not prepared to cede any ground to the PNP and its candidate.

Yesterday, an elderly voter in Chancery Hall said to me, "Keisha Hayle is a good woman but she acting as if the pothole dem have JLP green paint on dem. Di pothole dem exist from PNP in power, in government. I can't waste my vote and give it to Miss Hayle when har party nuh have no power."

It has to be borne in mind that there were many who believed that the PNP tapped the neophyte Hayle to run for the seat not so much as a potential winner, but as a lamb to the slaughter.

Many middle-class JLP voters remained at home, not necessarily because they are experiencing poor political representation, but they knew and expected the diehards alone in the JLP to retain the seat comfortably.

As boring as my JLP friend saw the election, and as predictable as the win was, it is expected that opposition leader and PNP president Peter Phillips will come under added scrutiny and pressure by leadership aspirants in his own party. Peter Bunting, fresh off his criticism of the JLP's Dr Nigel Clarke as affecting uppity and Oxfordian mores, will be thinking of making a few telephone calls and reassembling his 2016 team.

As for the floating voters in the country, Phillips knows that every JLP win makes his future prospects much more difficult.

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