Tue | Sep 26, 2017

Odds stacked against third parties

Published:Friday | February 26, 2016 | 2:13 AMPeter Townsend

THE EDITOR, Sir:
Since Independence, Jamaicans have practised a two-party system, with the Jamaica Labour Party and the People’s National Party becoming entrenched and operating like cults. The country has found itself in a position in which:
- Youth unemployment is now hovering around 30 per cent.
- Significant numbers of our people live as squatters – 35 per cent, according to a 2012 Gleaner report.
- Approximately 1.1 million of our people live below the poverty line.
- Approximately 1,200 people were murdered last year.
- Many Jamaican youths want to migrate, as they have little or no confidence in the way our country is managed.
Voter apathy is at its highest level in our history and hopelessness is setting in, as the two old parties fail to engage the people or efficiently manage the country’s affairs.
As nature abhors a vacuum, the time is now ripe for a new political party to emerge to rescue the country.
The National Democratic Movement (NDM) was formed on October 29, 1995 offering Jamaica a new and different politics. The NDM’s proposal for constitutional reforms include strict separation of powers; direct election of prime minister; fixed election date;  term limits; proportional representation for the Senate; dismantling political garrisons; three mayors instead of 14; transparent appointment to government bodies, with hearings before Parliament; and the police commissioner appointed by Parliament.
But, the road to real change is not an easy one, and so the NDM and other smaller parties have a long way to go, as the odds are stacked against new parties for cultural, political and financial reasons. These include, but are not limited to, the fact that:
1. The two old parties have a strong base of diehards dating back to generations.
2. The garrison political system in which criminal enforcers, in tandem with politicians, have used the fear factor to suppress real democracy.
3. Lack of funding for new political parties.
4. Media bias – Take, for instance, the publication in local newspapers on election day of the list of candidates (with names and photographs) for all 63 constituencies which excluded NDM, MGPPP and other candidates.
The old order, which has presided over the decadence through a divisive, polarising, violent and corrupt politics, is unlikely to produce the solutions necessary to fix Jamaica’s ills. The NDM and other organisations will, therefore, have to go back to the drawing board, working in partnership with young people to build a base from the ground up.
PETER TOWNSEND
President, NDM
ndmjamaica@yahoo.com