Wed | Aug 23, 2017

What's your bet for the election?

Published:Sunday | January 31, 2016 | 1:00 AM

The last time she heard the Master's voice in her ear, telling her when she was to set the date, she lost the election. Never mind the prophet whose name sounded like the limbs of a fish or aquatic mammal. Fins are for swimming in water and not for election navigation or prophesying. Having clearly removed the middleman, Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller is not taking any chances with the guidance of any man of the cloth, except perhaps her cousin, Opposition Member of Parliament Everald Warmington, and he is man of a different type and set of cloth; who has been provoked to wrath. Anyway, I will leave him be, because I don't want to be stung.

Scarier must it be, because the last incumbent who kept the public guessing had a major miscalculation, and by the time he had flown the gate, he was giving his concession speech. However, one key difference was that reputed pollster, Don Anderson, had called the December 2011 election for the People's National Party (PNP): PNP 34 to the Jamaica Labour Party's (JLP) 29. In fact, two days before the December 29 election, he fingered 51 seats whose outcomes he felt comfortable in predicting: 28 for the PNP and 23 for the JLP. Beyond those, he had also suggested that there were another 12 'battleground' constituencies, although six of them were trending towards the PNP.

When one adjusts for the likelihood and admitted uncertainty, the pollster was more than 90 per cent accurate. I have the sneaky feeling that it is likely to be a February appointment or, at the very latest, in the current fiscal year. But I put my X on late February, excluding the 30th and 31st.

 

POLITICAL MOTIVES

 

I have no reason to doubt Anderson and indeed, the surveys of my colleague Ian Boxill and those of expatriate Gleaner favourite Bill Johnson. Of course, some are imputing political motives because he sits on the board of a government entity and is often part of national sporting delegations. Notwithstanding that, methodology and scientific approach always trump politics and bias. Therefore, until there is some evidence that his perceived political affiliation compromises his work, I have to treat his findings with much seriousness.

It is the same sort of selective appreciation for survey techniques when it suits the person's agendas. For example, the recent survey by Transparency International (TI) once again speaks to the corruption perception index (CPI). This measure, a percentage, simply records the impression that people, locally and internationally, have about how corrupt the nation is. True, at 41 per cent, it is an improvement over the last figure of 38 per cent, and the low of 30 per cent at the heights of the Christopher 'Dudus' Coke crisis in 2009 to 2010. After all, the current administration must pat itself on the back for the improvement to now being ranked 69th out of 168 surveyed countries - a 16-place jump from the previous year.

 

MEASURES OF CORRUPTION

 

Yet it is nothing but a measure of opinion, and there is an unwillingness to look at the rest of the report, which deals with actual measures of corruption. In doing so, we would notice that only a small percentage of Jamaicans ever had to pay a bribe. Some 12 per cent of persons say they have bribed cops and six per cent say the same of judges. Less than five per cent say they have had to pay graft for services, such as school admission, tax administration and other government fees and licences. Indeed, another study by USAID, Vanderbilt University and the University of the West Indies indicates that a mere 9.8 per cent of Jamaicans paid bribes for governmental service in 2014. Compared to 10 years ago, when the figure was close to 33 per cent, this says that Jamaica's corruption is actually much lower and decreasing at a faster pace than the opinion surveys suggest. But remember, the CPI is a measurement of people's views, not what truly exists.

Still, given that Anderson uses a similar methodology as TI, I believe that if the election were to be held now, the PNP would win. However, there is many a slip 'twixt the cup and the lips, and it is who can get the voters out on the day who will win.

Nonetheless, history may help a bit. With the exception of 1967, February has been a good month for the PNP. When the PNP won 45 seats and 75 per cent of the vote in 1989, it was February 9. Following the pattern, P.J. Patterson scored victory number two in the

second month for an interesting double in 1993. With 86.7 per cent of the vote and 52 seats, the PNP was large and in charge. Whether it is the water bearer Aquarius, in the early part of the month, or it is the fish sign, Pisces, in the second half, February has paid great dividends for the party.

When Michael Manley wrested the working classes from the JLP and swept into Jamaica House with a landslide in 1972, it was a leap year, and guess what? Like this year, there is a February 29. Grossing an impressive 70 per cent of the vote, PNP grabbed 37 of the available 53 seats.

This numbers game is not lost on the PNP strategists, and I bet you that P.J. is somewhere in the background reminding the party. Did anyone notice that although they have neglected the Michael Manley Foundation for years, they have, for the first time in years, brought back his spirit on the campaign trail in the past few months?

So, I am smelling a 'raw' Pisces election at the end of February. I cannot predict how it will go, but if the PNP wins in North East St Elizabeth without Raymond Pryce and Warmington keeps his seat, the numbers will be too close to call.

- Dr Orville Taylor is senior lecturer in sociology at the UWI and a radio talk-show host. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.comand tayloronblackline @hotmail.com.