Anastasia Cunningham, Senior Gleaner Writer
As far as political historian Troy Caine is concerned, third parties in Jamaica have failed to prove themselves because the populace believes persons lack credibility when they jump from one party to the next before eventually deciding to form their own group, often without much substance.
"I think, generally, the people already have a feeling that third-party people are not going anywhere and they are usually just trying to be sensational more than anything else," Caine told The Gleaner.
He said there have been only a handful of credible individuals, such as Rose Leon, who have attempted to form third parties.
Outside of that, however, the political historian believes Jamaica's refusal to embrace a third party is largely due to the two-party system being deeply embedded in its culture.
"A lot of people cuss our system and our politicians and politics, but we are one of the few countries in the world that have a genuine entrenched two-party system," Caine said. "Maybe the only problem with our system is that somewhere along the way, it became a little too tribalised, but we are somewhat like the United States, who have an extremely entrenched two-party system."
Few credible third parties
The People's National Party (PNP), which was formed in 1938, and the Jamaica Labour Party, which was founded in 1943, are the main political parties on the island.
Acknowledging that over the years there have been a few credible third-party threats, Caine, however, noted that over the last 67 years of Jamaica's voting history, a third-party candidate has never won a seat.
He said the first real third party was the Jamaica Democratic Party, comprising mainly wealthy businessmen, which fielded a number of impressive candidates for the 1944 general election.
However, one of the truest challenges to the two-party system, as far as Caine is concerned, was the Farmers' Party in 1955, which produced several prominent persons who later pursued successful political careers.
"In my view, that party succeeded in denying (Alexander) Bustamante, who had won in 1944 and 1949, a third term in office," he said.
"In the 1955 elections, the PNP won for the first time with 18 seats to 14, which was the first razor-thin margin. In at least three constituencies where there were Farmers' Party candidates, the Labour Party lost those seats, which they would have normally won. The votes polled by the Farmers' Party candidates were far more than they lost by."
Caine added: "Although (the Farmer's Party) didn't win any seats, they created havoc for the Labour Party."
Other third parties to note are the Marcus Garvey's People's Political Party (PPP), which saw a resurgence in 1962, with Miller Johnson at the head.
"However, the PPP turned out to be more style than substance, as is the case with most third-party leaders. Johnson came on the scene with a lot of expectations for a lot of black people and they had so much hope and trust in him and contested quite a few seats and none really went anywhere. They just polled a couple hundred and odd. I think he even had candidates who polled more votes than him," stated Caine.
The 16-year-old National Democratic Movement (NDM), of which Bruce Golding was founding president, is the longest surviving third party in recent history.
"I seem to get an impression that with the change of leadership in the JLP, there might be some change of political notions and commotion in the NDM. I get a feeling from speaking to some of the NDM members that they have an enormous amount of goodwill towards Andrew Holness," stated Cain.