Wed | Jan 22, 2020

Voter turnout to remain low, analyst predicts

Published:Tuesday | January 14, 2020 | 12:22 AMPaul Clarke/Gleaner Writer

Political hawks should not be surprised if voter turnout at the next general election, constitutionally due in 2021, falls below the 47.7 per cent recorded at the 2016 poll, asserts veteran political analyst Shalman Scott.

His belief is underpinned by the trend of a fall-off in voter participation in almost every general election over the last 20 years.

“Outside the usual development during the upcoming electioneering period, it seems to me that there is going to be another lacklustre turnout at the polls. An aggressive, powerful campaign is anticipated by both parties, but a tame turnout is also expected,” Scott said.

Scott said that further analysis needed to be done to fully understand the dynamics of the falling participation nationally, adding that the major political parties and their prospective candidates should be pressed to solve the apathy riddle.

Additionally, the political pundit theorised that the popularity of some members of parliament for both the ruling party and the Opposition, as well as the opinion-poll favourability rating enjoyed by Prime Minister Andrew Holness, will not be replicated at the polls.

“My reading is that the turnout is going to be lacklustre unless between now and the holding of elections, some major event impacts the people to cause them either to go vote for the Government in power or vote against the Government in power, vis-à-vis, either Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) or People’s National Party (PNP), to register their frustrations,” said Scott, noting that the turnout at the 2016 general election was the lowest in a contested vote since 1944, when the turnout was under 60 per cent.

The only time it was lower was in the 1983 uncontested election where the turnout was about 15 per cent. The PNP boycotted that election.

“We have had close to 80 per cent voter turnout in this country in the past, so what is it that has caused such low turnout in such a high-profile election the last time round, and what are we to expect this time out? I would say the same, if not worse,” said Scott.

paul.clarke@gleanerjm.com