Gordon Robinson | The 70% won
Finally, the farcical distraction (aka local government elections) is over.
I'm sure JLP leaders, candidates, and voters, God bless 'em, are of the view that the JLP 'won' these elections, but the truth is that the PNP lost. In the most remarkable example of self-destructiveness since Elvis, PNP focused on public squabbling and allowed inept leadership to hand the JLP full 'power' over both layers of government. Nowhere was this more evident than in South East St Ann.
There are four parish council divisions in that war-torn constituency, which used to be the safest of safe PNP fiefdoms. Two of them (Bensonton and Beecher Town), although very much part of PNP internal strife, didn't bring that strife to the electoral table (no 'independent' candidates nominated), so their results can be used as controls in analysing the extent to which the PNP shot itself in the foot in South East St Ann and, by extrapolation, Jamaica.
Bensonton results 2012: PNP - 1,359 (83.8%); JLP - 227 (14%); 31.48% turnout.
Bensonton results 2016: PNP - 1,327 (67.7%); JLP - 634 (32.3%); 33.5% turnout.
Comrades came out as usual, but the nationwide JLP swing meant 400-plus more JLP voters showed up than in 2012. This proves that the general JLP swing ALONE wasn't strong enough to threaten the safest of PNP seats.
Beecher Town results 2012: PNP - 1,323 (62.9%), JLP - 755 (35.9%); 32.4% turnout.
Beecher Town results 2016: PNP - 1,217 (61.8%), JLP - 753 (38.2%); 26.9% turnout.
In Beecher Town, the parties retained their percentage share of a lower voter turnout. Again, nothing remarkable, except for a worrying sign that Comrades may be choosing TV over voting. Despite this, please note the average turnout for these divisions combined in 2012 was 31.94% and 30.2% in 2016.
Now, the 'battleground' divisions: First, Claremont, where the PNP president, on the campaign trail, appeared to threaten Comrades considering supporting an 'independent' candidate (also a Comrade) over the PNP incumbent, whose vocal opposition to the sitting MP was as persistent as it was crude. On election eve, my favourite columnist, Martin Henry, exposed his complete misunderstanding of the politics of the situation by postulating:
"Portia Simpson Miller's 'threat' to rebellious Comrades out in South East (SE) St Ann and the very solemn media analyses of it will not be affecting results tomorrow ... .
The rebel PNP 'independent' councillor-candidates are going to get wiped out (metaphorically and politically) in SE St Ann tomorrow."
Claremont 2012: PNP - 1,927 (80.4%); JLP - 433 (18.1%); 29.59% turnout
Claremont 2016: PNP - 969 (42.6%); JLP - 622 (27.3%); IND - 685 (30.1%); 25.1% turnout.
Seemingly intimidated by the Comrade leader's 'tracing' Claremont Comrades stayed home in 2016. The combined votes for PNP and 'independent PNP' totalled 1,654 (almost 300 fewer than voted PNP in 2012), or 72.7% of the vote (down from 80.4%). This independent was NOT "wiped out" as a significant protest vote was registered by his supporters and Comrades who stayed away. Hopefully, the PNP received the message.
But the most striking example of what the disintegrating, self-destructive PNP had accomplished unfolded in the Moneague division.
Moneague 2012: PNP - 1,665 (73.8%); JLP - 551 (24.4%); 30.99% turnout.
Moneague 2016: PNP - 777 (32.8%); JLP - 805 (34%); IND - 787 (33.2%); 29.5% turnout.
Aaaauuuugghh! I just had a dreadful vision of Ivan Lloyd rolling on top of Seymour Mullings in their graves, wondering, like the Chinese chef, 'Wok the Heck', was the PNP thinking? MONEAGUE? Say it ain't so!
1. Far from being "wiped out", the independent candidate polled more votes than the official PNP candidate, Lloyd Garrick, a public ringleader in the vicious, vociferous attacks on sitting MP, Lisa Hanna. This sends another clear message to PNP headquarters.
2. The combined vote in the 'contested' divisions was 1,746 - PNP; 1,472 - IND. The 2016 average combined voter turnout was 27.3%, down from 30.27% (2012). The PNP registered an average of 77.1% of the combined vote in 2012 and only 37.7% in 2016.
3. In the 2011 and 2016 general elections, SE St Ann's MP collected 60-plus per cent of the votes cast. In 2016, despite a massive islandwide JLP swing, she polled 8,142 votes (turnout 44.29%), down from 8,996 in 2012 (51.22% turnout). Her 2016 results, in an election where Comrades stayed home in droves across Jamaica, were among the best returned by any PNP MP outside of garrisons.
MP NOT THE PROBLEM
The evidence is clear. The problem with South East St Ann lies with the dissident councillors, NOT with the MP. Blame for these election results fall squarely on Portia Simpson Miller and Paul Burke, whose response to the clear and present crisis was to bury their heads in the sand and hope the problems disappeared like St Ann fog.
I hear Julian saying that an assessment will be done. Assessment, schmassessment! A detailed assessment of the February disaster was already done. How about implementing ONE of those recommendations before embarking on another paper-pushing exercise? When young and energetic new Region One Chairman Dayton Campbell loses EVERY Division in his Constituency; when FIVE JLP candidates in Westmoreland are successful, you KNOW what's wrong. My list includes three things to blame: leadership, leadership, and leadership.
The party leader, for one, must now be politely told it's time. Stop this nonsense that she's to be allowed to leave in dignity. She has had myriad opportunities to leave with dignity and scorned every one. It's now simply time to go, and it's entirely up to her the level of dignity that'll accompany her exit. Others should follow.
I suppose the JLP is now cockahoop. Let me remind the JLP that it has won NOTHING. Now that Young Andrew has been fed the illusion of complete 'power' (controls central and local government), let's see what he does with it. His true mettle is about to be tested because the real winners of this latest charade are the 70 per cent who steadfastly refused to participate. Nobody who can only muster 16 per cent of the electorate's votes wins anything. Any 'mandate' JLP imagines it received comes from the 70 per cent who are the majority in an allegedly democratic nation.
The 70 per cent can't be ignored. The good news for the JLP is that it now has full control. The bad news is that this means it has no excuse not to deliver on election promises or not to give the 70 per cent majority what it wants. Government must talk to the 70 per cent and find out what they want to return to the fold.
WE THE PEOPLE WANT FUNDAMENTAL CHANGE:
a. Fixed election date: Promised to us by Young Andrew. Enough of this expensive double-barrel (pork) to buy votes. ONE election!
b. Term limits: PMs/MPs must understand the people's urgency. If you can't accomplish progress in two terms, move on. Let somebody else try.
c. Direct vote for PM: We're sick and tired of this twice-per-decade trick when we're forced to vote for a PM we don't want under the guise of voting for an MP.
d. Elected Senate: Why do citizens have no input in selecting who ultimately passes laws to bind citizens? Why are we perpetuating colonial dictatorship where the emperor selects Upper House legislators? Have senators represent parishes and let us vote for them;
e. Impeachment and MP recall. We the employers will NOT wait five years to fire a non-performing (or, worse, corrupt) elected official. Petition by 10 per cent of electors should be enough to trigger MP recall elections. A two-thirds vote in both Houses should impeach a PM;
f. Anti-corruption agency with teeth: OCG is a joke, especially as it's dependent on the DPP. We need an office with prosecutorial powers fully staffed with trained investigators and independent of Parliament.
Young Andrew, with all due respect to Edward Seaga and P.J. Patterson, strikes me as Jamaica's most cerebral prime minister and appears poised to remain PM as long as he wants. I KNOW he KNOWS what these election results really mean. No prime minister was more universally beloved than Michael Manley in 1972. By 1976, he was vilified. Time isn't on your side, Young Andrew. You need to begin fundamental constitutional change NOW.
Norman Manley's last public address challenged us as follows:
" ... The mission of my generation was to win self-government for Jamaica ... .
"I am proud to stand here today and say to you who fought that fight with me, mission accomplished for my generation.
"And what is the mission of this generation? ... It is ... reconstructing the social and economic society and life of Jamaica."
An entire generation has dropped the ball thrown by N.W. Manley. Young Andrew, YOU have a golden opportunity to recover the fumble and return it for a touchdown. If you focus and do this for Jamaica, I tell you what I'll do for you. I'll stop calling you "Young Andrew". Deal?
Peace and love.
- Gordon Robinson is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.