Not fair - Selfish election dawdling puts squeeze on funds, say JLP parliamentary aspirants
Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller and senior members of the governing People's National Party (PNP) are being accused by political aspirants in their rival party of manipulating gaping loopholes in the electoral mechanism without consideration for country or young political aspirants.
The accusations have been fired ahead of today's critical meeting of Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) standard-bearers and members at the Jamaica Conference Centre in downtown Kingston.
Juliet Cuthbert Flynn, the JLP standard-bearer for West Rural St Andrew, has characterised as selfish the actions of Simpson Miller and her team in dawdling with the election timetable.
"It can't be good for any new candidate - JLP or PNP," argued Cuthbert Flynn. "We were all in election mode and then, wham! We were hit with a curve ball."
Cuthbert Flynn charged that this means going back to the drawing board and engaging in a "silly guessing game".
"The country also remains at a standstill and this does not augur well," she said.
The likelihood of an extended campaign has not been lost on the JLP leadership.
General Secretary Dr Horace Chang told The Sunday Gleaner that it is for this reason that the high-profile meeting scheduled to start at 10 a.m. is being convened to chart the way forward.
"The election campaign could be very short or long, although a year is not really a long time," said Chang.
"The entire leadership of the party will be there and geared up for any eventuality."
He said that in terms of the expectations created by the PNP, as well as the mood of the country, early elections would be more desirable.
"But we are prepared for anything," he asserted.
The next general election is constitutionally due by December 29, 2016, with an additional three months in the event of an emergency.
NEED FOR FIXED DATE
Cuthbert Flynn suggested that the shenanigans being played out on the political landscape by Simpson Miller and her team highlight the need for a fixed election date.
"Playing politics to suit yourself is selfish," she declared.
"For our country to move forward, we must ensure that certain things are in place, and a fixed election [date] is one of them."
Cuthbert Flynn, however, conceded that there is a plus to the dawdling.
Noting that all candidates are forced to engage in a longer process of campaigning, she said it affords her an opportunity to meet more people and get to know the constituency better.
"This works, especially for some new candidates in the JLP - like Dr Christopher Tufton and Juliet Holness - and it may just give them an advantage."
Newly installed JLP candidate for Northern Trelawny, Dennis Meadows, argued that the uncertainty caused by a lengthy campaign period could have adverse implications for any candidate, more so opposition aspirants.
"It has implications as it relates to costs and funding," he said. "Potential donors are more inclined to open their wallets or chequebooks when there is a definite period for campaign to an election, as to fund a candidate day to day in perpetuity may cost them more."
Meadows suggested that while a ruling party's candidate or incumbent member of parliament may find creative ways of funding their campaign through state resources, challengers are inclined to find the going more demanding.
"In a depressed economy like Jamaica's, the avenues of funding do get narrow, and candidates will find it difficult to navigate," said Meadows. "Generally, though, it also has implications for the country's prospect for growth as investors tend to adopt a wait-and-see approach to pending projects."
Marlene Malahoo Forte, the JLP standard-bearer for West Central St James, conceded as well that Simpson Miller's tentativeness has both positive and negative implications.
"For a newly installed candidate, it gives you more time to properly organise, but campaign donors are hesitant to contribute before knowing when the election will be called," she said.
Delano Seiveright, who is gearing up to run on the JLP ticket in Eastern St Thomas, suggested that in a non-fixed election date environment, he has had to prepare for any eventuality.
"Thankfully, the election-date-calling false start last year gave candidates the opportunity to identify weaknesses and make the necessary corrections, where possible," he added.
Seiveright suggested that Simpson Miller's "timidity in flying the gate" also highlighted significant support for a change of government, albeit amid high levels of apathy.
He claimed it was noteworthy that the Opposition was at no time forced to "import" crowds from other areas for political rallies.
"We benefited from genuine home-grown support," he said. "Confidence is relatively high and people are just waiting to vote out the Government."
Chang agrees: "It is getting more positive, and as [the] election approaches, more people on the fence are beginning to make up their minds."
He said the JLP was confident that undecided voters are beginning to view that party in a positive light.
"We are comfortable that they are making up their minds in favour of the JLP," he said. "The electorate is mature, and they accept that the country is moving in the wrong direction."