Andrew Holness, the presumed next prime minister of Jamaica, must seek his own mandate if he is to have the moral authority to tackle the many challenges the country will continue to face when he replaces Bruce Golding.
Holness has to call elections by December 2012, but sensible money is being bet on him going to the polls long before that.
Making the assumption that Holness will be sworn in before the end of this month, his options as to when to call the elections are as follows.
With the law requiring five clear days between the announcement of the election and nomination day and at least 16 days between nomination and election days, Holness could use the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) conference on November 20 to announce the election date. That would see Jamaicans going to the polls by mid-December. However, if the nomination day is before December 6, the more than 40,000 people recently added to the voters' list will not be eligible to vote as the November voters' list will not be used. Can Holness take the chance of disenfranchising these people?
This would give Holness time to start making his changes to the Government's policy direction and allow the JLP to cleanse itself of any stains left by the public's disappointment with Golding. By then, any problems with the International Monetary Fund should also be resolved removing one of the bullets from the People's National Party's election gun. But can Holness take the risk of spending the final three months of the fiscal year electioneering when his administration should be focused on crafting what will be a difficult Budget?
By now, Jamaicans should have a clear idea of the direction in which Holness is steering the country and that could be a positive or a negative. If Dr Christopher Tufton's job-creation push is successful, crime continues its downward trend and any extradition matter surrounding politicians is settled, Holness could be riding a wave of popularity. But the Budget will undoubtedly have some painful measures, possibly including an increase in GCT and cuts in the civil service. Can Holness face the people at that time?
4. July-September 2012
Budget blues should be over by this time. Holness' tough decisions in the Budget could be gaining traction and enjoying success while a cash-strapped PNP would have been on the campaign trail for almost one year and running out of steam. Any policy success would swell the support of the JLP and young voters would be so proud of someone their own age leading the Government that Holness would surely enjoy the sweet taste of success. But that would be almost one year in office for Holness and his warts could be plain to see by then. Is this a risk that he could take? Remember Portia Simpson Miller.
This is so far fetched that its hardly worth mentioning. But unless Jamaica discovers oil or someone in the PNP challenges Simpson Miller and that party implodes, Holness would be leading his party on to the opposition benches after any general election during this period.