Third parties prepare for general election
Anastasia Cunningham, Senior Gleaner Writer
Ras Astor Black, president of the Jamaica Alliance Movement (JAM), says he plans to put up at least 35 candidates for the upcoming general election.
Black, who considers the membership of his party to be anyone who does not vote for the People's National Party (PNP) or the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), has been the sole candidate for his party since it was formed 10 years ago.
As far as Black is concerned, the Jamaican people have been under the rule of the two traditional parties for too long and it is time for a change.
"It has been the same thing over and over, and we cannot afford to disappoint the next generation. We have to create a new system," he told The Gleaner.
Among Black's proposals is to establish a medical marijuana pilot project in north Trelawny.
He is also campaigning for the North Coast Highway between Donald Sangster International Airport in St James and the Ian Flemming International Airport in St Mary to be named the Bob Marley Highway.
"With my responsibility as prime minister and minister of tourism, in north Trelawny, with the new cruise-ship pier, we will be pushing for 50 more attractions, like a Reggae Walk of Fame, to attract more people to the parish," he said.
Black would also like to see all community centres properly equipped through the Universal Access Fund so that "every youth can be linked to the super highway, which will provide another 5,000 jobs for Jamaican youth".
He said his job creation plan, outlined in his agenda, would create 500 more jobs in the parishes of St James, Trelawny, St Ann, and St Mary.
Although stating that JAM's more than 35 candidates would be ready whenever the election was called, he would prefer the election to be held after the country's 50th Independence celebrations to give Jamaicans a chance to see what the Andrew Holness-led JLP "plans to do in the future 50 years".
In the meantime, Earle Delisser, president of the National Democratic Movement (NDM), said the leadership of his party was yet to make up its mind on whether it would be contesting the election.
"To tell you the truth, we have very little funds. And if they are going to call it this year, it is going to put us in some problems. But if it is called February or beyond, we will be in a good position to field a few candidates," he said.
"On previous occasions when we put up candidates, they were not good enough to get the votes we needed to make an impact. So this time around, we are trying to put up more credible candidates who can make an impact on the voting population."
Founded by Golding
The NDM was formed in 1995 with Bruce Golding as its founding president following his split from the JLP. The party contested a general election for the first time in 1997, but has never won a seat.
In the 2007 general election, the NDM was represented in 11 constituencies, gaining 354 votes.
Betty-Ann Blaine, convener of the August 2010-formed New Nation Coalition (NNC), is new to the political arena.
She, too, is unsure of her party's status for the upcoming election and is vehemently opposed to an early election without any critical electoral reforms being put in place.
"The way that this thing is being done, third parties don't have a chance," she declared.
"We are not in support of this rush for early elections. One of the things we are most upset about is that for over a year, the third parties and civil society have been working with the Electoral Commission to put into law some critical electoral reforms, but the Government has decided that it is in its own best interest, not that of the country or free and fair elections, to call an early election without any of those reforms being put in place."
If they contest the elections, the NDM and the NNC will field candidates as separate parties, but under their National Coalition agreement, they will not compete against each other in any constituencies.