Fix our election dates!
A majority of Jamaicans say PM should not determine when local gov’t, national polls are held
A vast majority of Jamaicans are clamouring for a fixed date for both general and local government elections and for the prime minister to be relieved of the power to decide when the voting population heads to the polls.
The latest Don Anderson poll has found that 81.1 per cent of the 1,010 Jamaicans surveyed feel there should be a fixed date for the general elections and that the executive president or prime minister should not be the one to determine when this election is held.
The poll similarly found that 80.9 per cent want a fixed date for the local government elections and that the executive president or prime minister should not be the one to determine when this election is held.
However, 14.1 per cent felt there was no need for a fixed date for the general elections, while 4.9 per cent were unsure.
For the fixed date for local government polls, 14.8 per cent were opposed while 4.8 per cent said they were unsure.
The poll, commissioned by the RJRGLEANER Communications Group, has a margin of error of plus or minus three per cent at the 95 per cent confidence level.
Jamaicans ages 18 years and over were interviewed across all parishes between August 30 and September 14.
Fieldwork was validated by random callbacks to approximately 25 per cent of all persons interviewed.
A fixed date for elections is an issue that has been debated for years, with no definitive action from the different administrations to settle the issue.
Prime Minister Andrew Holness, in August 2020, had indicated that fixed election dates remain an aspiration for his Government.
NO DIRECT ANSWER
But Legal and Constitutional Affairs Minister Marlene Malahoo Forte yesterday shied away from answering directly whether there are any plans by the Government to start working on such legislation.
“The minister with responsibility for election is the prime minister and the minister of local government. The questions are better directed there,” she said.
Metry Seaga, president of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica, while expressing support for the fixed election dates, said now would be a good time for the Government to review the matter and hopefully lead towards making fixed dates a reality.
“In business, certainty is always a good thing and, if we know when elections are going to be held, we can plan around them and work towards ensuring that the things that are needed are in place.
“I think the prime minister had promised that he was going to have a look at it in the run-up to the last elections and I think the time has come that we should be looking at it,” he said.
Meanwhile, former director of elections, Orette Fisher, said having fixed dates would ensure better planning and organisation, which would result in cost reduction.
However, he said a fixed period would be better than a fixed date.
“Rather than a fixed date, a fixed period within which it would be called would be more acceptable. But it would have to stipulate the conditions under which an early election could be called. For example, a no-confidence vote would trigger an election but, outside of a vote of no confidence in Parliament, it would go to the election period, which, to my mind, would be something like three months before or three months after, rather than down to a specific date,” he said.
Additionally, he said, while a fixed date would end the need for the prime minister to announce a date, outside of that, he had no problem with the prime minister maintaining that privilege.
Dr Peter Phillips, former opposition leader, also supported the need for fixed dates but noted that the legislation that would guide the process would need to make provisions for emergency elections.
“There are certainly good reasons to have a fixed date, to stop having the political manoeuvring surrounding the date,” he said.
However, he added that the legislation “would have to take some account of the need to facilitate an election in circumstances where there is a deep national crisis that might have arisen”.