Thu | Jul 16, 2020

Phillips wants legal assurances on 2-in-1 election

Published:Monday | June 29, 2020 | 12:30 AMRomario Scott/Gleaner Writer
People’s National Party Co-Campaign Director Peter Bunting (left) chuckles with party President Dr Peter Phillips at a meeting of councillors and councillor caretakers at The Mico University College in Kingston on Sunday.
People’s National Party Co-Campaign Director Peter Bunting (left) chuckles with party President Dr Peter Phillips at a meeting of councillors and councillor caretakers at The Mico University College in Kingston on Sunday.

President of the People’s National Party (PNP), Dr Peter Phillips, is demanding assurances that the legal and technical issues involved in staging both the local government and general elections on one ballot be ironed out before concluding on what would be a historic move.

Prime Minster Andrew Holness last week said that the Government was considering having the two-in-one election but did not give a firm commitment on that score.

Combining the elections could save taxpayers around $750 million – a crucial sum given the country’s dire financial state amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Addressing PNP councillors and councillor caretakers at The Mico University College on Sunday, Phillips said that the Government had formally engaged the Electoral Commission of Jamaica on the cost-saving measure.

Although the Opposition does not have a say in when elections are called, as that power rests with the prime minister, Phillips has maintained that he is willing to contemplate having both, which might require legislative changes.

It is at that point where the support of the Opposition might become necessary.

“The Electoral Commission has identified a number of technical and legal issues that they are examining, and certainly, we would need as a party to be entirely clear that all the arrangements are in place are legal and constitutional and, in fact, are practical, if we are to agree to do it, and that is being done,” Phillips said.

“Whatever the ultimate decisions that are being taken, we in the party have an obligation to be ready, to be prepared, because our intention is if they call one, the PNP will win. If they call the other, the PNP will win. If they call both together, the PNP will win,” Phillips said to cheers from the participants in the meeting.

The PNP president told Comrades that the slate of 63 prospective parliamentary candidates was the “best” ever assembled, adding that a majority of the party’s local government standard-bearers were in place.

He said that the electorate was looking for the PNP “... to provide a set of representatives in local and central government whose only objective is to serve the people of Jamaica and not to serve themselves or to secure personal benefit for themselves. That must be a commitment that all of us must make,” Phillips charged.

In 2016, the Jamaica Labour Party won eight parishes and the PNP, four. One was tied.

Local government polls are due in November while the general election is due by February 2021.

romario.scott@gleanerjm.com