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Jaristotle's Jottings | The ‘art’ of influence in elections

Published:Thursday | December 12, 2019 | 12:22 AM

There is little doubt that, with general election due by 2021, both major political parties are moving into election mode. Some people may hold out hope that their prayers for roads being fixed, getting running water, and perhaps electricity, may finally be answered. Those short-term issues may well be addressed, but at what cost? Let’s therefore look at what elections really cost this country.

Garnering election-winning votes is all a matter of influence: which party or candidate can wield or impose influence most effectively to convince voters to side with them. If we are to pause for a moment and look at the current spectacle of impeachment politics playing out in the United States, we can see quite clearly how influence is being wielded to satisfy party political positions and outcomes across the judicial, executive and legislative arms of government. Fake news and facts expertly blended while the whole world watches. Anyway, back to Jamaica.

INFLUENCE

During the lead-up to elections, influence wielding is not the sole purview of political candidates and their cronies. Persons in positions of authority oftentimes sell their ‘services’ as well-positioned purveyors of influence, a precious commodity that becomes even more costly during election campaigns. What, therefore, are we to expect in the coming months?

Rent-a-cops are key powerbrokers for any sensible politician. They can make or break any candidate’s efforts in a given constituency, and so alignments to paying candidates will become more pronounced. Their value proposition: keep so-and-so locked up, drop charges against so-and-so, lock down this area, and turn a blind eye as and when needed. All for the right price.

Then, there are the so-called area leaders, opportunists and gangsters, all of whom, for the right price, will impose their brutish influence over their areas of control. In today’s ‘money talks’ environment, traditional party support does not necessarily hold sway: it’s all about business. A few lives here and there have never fazed our politicians in the past; why expect a change now?

The lawyers are going to have a field day, awash in blood money as they ensure the gangsters of choice remain free from legal encumbrances, so that they can exercise their influence on behalf of their political ‘employers’.

COLTING THE GAME FROM WITHIN

Electioneering periods are good times to have political hacks immersed in the public service, hacks who can peddle influence within the ranks to ensure the passage of vote-garnering projects and programmes. Look out for the inevitable thrust to immerse these ‘agents provocateur’; look out for the explosion of rhetoric from these mouthpieces, notably within executive agencies and other public bodies, where board members are pets of the portfolio ministers.

Finally, look out for the surge in ‘run-with-it’ spending on ‘feel good’ projects, complete with inflated estimates and cost overruns: unsustainable strategies intended to make the most of the moment and dumping the true cost on the economy in the long run. If the incumbents lose, the other party will have to deal with the problem. If the incumbents win, then it will have been worth it and easy to explain away. After all, if you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bull****.

The marginal wins and losses from the last election still resonate quite loudly. Marginal and swing constituencies are going to be major battlegrounds where the influence peddling is going to tun-up; where the good, the bad and the ugly will play out as politicos seek to impose influence and garner votes or deny the opposition.

Let’s see what monitoring and preventive initiatives are implemented to minimise the inevitable skulduggery, and how vigilant the media and watchdog groups are to name and shame as necessary.

Send feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.