Delano Franklyn | The PNP and its performance in the 2020 national election
Prime Minister Andrew Holness must be congratulated for leading the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) to a resounding victory over the People’s National Party (PNP) in the recently concluded general election.
It is the first second-term victory by the JLP since 1967, not counting the election in 1983, which was boycotted by the PNP.
It is also the very first time that an election was held during a national pandemic – COVID-19. There is no doubt that this contributed to the lowest turnout ever in a national elections, barring the one-sided election in 1983.
The 48 JLP to 15 PNP majority is one of the largest margins of victory to be recorded in the history of voting in Jamaica.
The JLP placed Prime Minister Holness at the centre of its campaign and it worked for the party, as he was able to take home to victory many candidates who were hitherto unknown to the general electorate.
Let us not forget that Andrew Holness was described as a weak leader by several members of his party in 2015. We well remember Delroy Chuck’s call for him to resign.
Writing in the Jamaica Observer, March 14, 2015, Paul Henry stated that he was told by a leading member of the party that, “The whole situation over the last six months with Holness’ missteps can only be described as an outrage. Holness has self-destructed and is now unmarketable, which renders the Labour Party unelectable under his leadership.”
Holness survived by a majority of one vote among the JLP MPs, at the time, to continue to lead the party. Now, he is regarded by many of those who were against him as the saviour of the party. He has come full circle.
Dr Peter Phillips must also be congratulated for being very gracious in defeat. He called Prime Minister Holness on the night of the election and expressed his best wishes to him on a well-deserved victory.
The following day, Dr Phillips ‘man up’, and told Jamaica that he takes full responsibility for the defeat of the PNP, and that he will step down as party president so soon as another leader has been put in place.
Dr Phillips has been a tireless and faithful party worker and public servant. He has performed in every ministerial role he has been assigned. The fact that he did not achieve the objective of being elevated to the high office was determined by the electorate and their wish must be respected.
NO SHIFT TO THE JLP
Despite the landslide victory by the JLP, as it relates to seat count, there was no swing to the JLP by the electorate. An examination of the numbers and a comparison with the 2016 election will prove the point.
In 2016, voter turnout was 48 per cent. In 2020, the turnout was 37 per cent, a drop by 11 per cent. The vast majority of voters, 63 per cent, ignored both the JLP and the PNP.
In 2016, the number of persons that voted was 882,389. Of that number, 436,972 voted for the JLP and 433,735 for the PNP, a difference of 3,237.
In 2020, the preliminary results are showing that the total number of persons that voted was 714,808. Of that number, 407,753 voted for the JLP and 305,864 voted for the PNP.
What that means is that 9,219 fewer persons voted for the JLP and 127,871 fewer voted for the PNP in 2020.
It is very clear, therefore, that there was no swing to the JLP in the national votes as it got fewer votes in 2020 than it did in 2016.
It is also very clear that the PNP lost very serious ground in 2020, as 127,871 persons who voted for it in 2016 decided to stay home. The significant reduction in the PNP votes resulted in many well-known PNP figures losing their seats. The main question to be asked is, why so many PNP voters stayed away? I put forward the following possible reasons without placing them in any particular order.
1. The PNP as an organisation is not what it used to be. The organisational structure needs to be overhauled and reformed and brought in line with modern ways of doing political organisational work. The party also needs to develop clear core values and principles that accord with the desires of our people.
2. The younger cohort of voters finds the razzle-dazzle type of politics by the JLP, such as highlighting the ‘youthfulness’ of its leader, the emphasis on the ‘Clarks’ brand of shoes, the Brogad nomenclature, and a resource-rich party to be far more attractive than the offerings of the PNP.
3. Despite condemnation by some, the vast majority of those who voted seems not to care about the deep level of corruption that exists at the highest level in Government. The MPs/ministers who were fingered during the JLP’s term in office have been returned as MPs. It is said that the country was drained of some $14b over the last five years due to acts of corruption. The Integrity Commission needs to become far more proactive in helping to stem the wastage of public resources by acts of corruption.
4. Many PNP supporters were of the view that the party is still deeply divided. A few months ago the party had an internal election, where on both sides, regrettably, harsh words were used to describe contenders and supporters of the contenders. Some of the words uttered by persons involved in that campaign were used by the JLP, to good effect, against the PNP during the campaign. I hope, if nothing else, that those who speak on behalf of the PNP, or in the name of the PNP, do realise that words must be carefully used, no matter the temptation to do otherwise.
5. Many voters were of the view that Dr Phillips, despite being given the nod of approval by the majority of PNP delegates in the internal presidential election, ought not to have been the one to lead the PNP in the election. During the debate, Dr Phillips showed his knowledge of government and governance, but it was a bit too late for a people who have grown accustomed to the desire to have a ‘popular’ leader.
6. The PNP has never, and will never, be able to match the JLP in relation to spending during a campaign, and especially on the day of an election. Many PNP workers and supporters came under significant pressure when money started to flow on election day, especially between the hours of 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. Vote buying is a real issue and the relevant authorities need to find ways and means to address it as it is seriously undermining the country’s democracy.
The PNP is down but cannot afford to be out. It has experienced defeat before and has bounced back.
After its defeat in 1980, when the JLP won 51 seats to the PNP’s 9, the party rebuilt, retooled and rebranded itself. By 1989 it was back in power and held office, thereafter, for 18 consecutive years, and again from 2011 to 2016.
Once again the PNP is being called upon to make the necessary changes in order to become attractive to voters and all Jamaicans.
- Delano Franklyn is attorney-at-law and former PNP senator and minister of state. Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.