Peter Espeut | J’cans have sensitive consciences
Those of us Jamaicans with sensitive consciences find it difficult to be identified with political parties chronically implicated in corruption or that maintain political garrisons, or which refuse to disassociate themselves from political thugs and armed enforcers.
This could explain why the number of Jamaicans who vote for both major political parties has steadily declined in recent years, since they both fall into the categories outlined above.
In the last general election (2016), of the 1,824,412 registered electors, only 882,389 or less than half (48.37 per cent) cast a vote. I would like to think that a good number of the 51 per cent who did not vote had sensitive consciences.
In 2016, the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) was put in power by only 23.95 per cent of those registered to vote, and since many Jamaicans did not even register, their support in terms of those eligible to vote was even smaller. Cause for sober thought, I should think!
Last Monday, Nationwide News Network (NNN) released the findings of a poll conducted a few weeks ago by the Bluedot organisation. It found that only 36 per cent of Jamaicans did NOT believe that this Andrew Holness administration is corrupt (that is, 64 per cent believe that they ARE corrupt). We don’t know if all of them are registered voters, but I suspect not. I also suspect that an equal number would assert a belief that the previous People’s National Party (PNP) administration was also corrupt; the JLP does not have a monopoly on corruption.
But will the 64 per cent who believe this Government is corrupt vote for them anyway? Or will they vote for the PNP if they believe them also to be corrupt? Or will they, having sensitive consciences, stay away from the polls altogether, deepening the trend over the last decades?
Sadly, the NNN/Bluedot poll did not ask these questions. I wish they had, as it would indicate the number of Jamaicans with sensitive consciences.
What they did ask was: “Will your opinion of how the current Government has handled corruption influence your likelihood to vote for them or not?” Of the respondents, 48 per cent said yes, and 52 per cent said no.
By itself, this is an ambiguous question, because we cannot interpret the answers unless we know whether or not the respondents liked how the Government has handled corruption.
Do these findings mean that 48 per cent of respondents LIKED the fact that several persons were asked to resign, and that others are facing the courts, and therefore they WILL vote for the Government? Or do they mean that 48 per cent of respondents DID NOT LIKE the fact so many others were simply asked to resign and were not hauled before the courts and, therefore, they WILL NOT vote for the Government?
Or do the findings mean that 52 per cent of respondents don’t care how the Government has handled corruption, as it will not influence at all how they will vote?
If it is the latter, then the Government need not be concerned about the fact that they are perceived to be corrupt, as people do not have sensitive consciences, and will vote for them anyway. If the second interpretation is correct, then it indicates that the respondents have sensitive consciences, and voter turnout will continue to be low.
Of course, because the question was ambiguous, and respondents were not asked if they liked how the Government handled allegations of corruption, some people probably interpreted it one way, and others another. We should disregard these findings altogether.
But answers to the third question are really interesting. Respondents were asked in whom they had the most confidence to manage corruption: Andrew Holness or Peter Phillips? A whopping 42 per cent said they had confidence in neither!
That is how I would have answered.
I expect another low turnout in the next general election unless one party or the other promises to take credible steps against political corruption.
Peter Espeut is a sociologist and development scientist. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.