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Needed: A new format for political debates

Published:Wednesday | November 4, 2015 | 8:36 AM


There are indications that general elections are coming soon. One would, therefore, expect that the debates between the political leaders are also in the making, which will give the Jamaican people an opportunity to hear from the aspirants their plans for the development of Jamaica.

This is not new. We have had debates in the past, following the most basic format where both debaters are in the same place and the same time taking questions alternately from a bank of reporters. In this format, each are allowed rebuttal time to directly address issues raised by the opponent.

For 2015, I hope this is not the format which will be used. This format is staid and is open to manipulation and 'one-up-man-ship'. Following the recent Republican Presidential Debate, representatives from all the presidential campaigns have agreed to negotiate a new format because the present head-to-head format is not allowing a real debate of the issues and giving the moderators too much control.

In the recent British general election debate, a new debate format was introduced where the each leader appeared in turn, with half an hour each to take questions from the audience, and at no time the debaters appeared on stage together. In Canada, also, different debating formats were used in that election campaign.

In 2015, I hope the Debate Commission adopts a new approach for the debates in Jamaica. In our case, a pool of reporters could be commissioned to provide the questions to the leaders, using the British format. This would, in my view, give Jamaicans the opportunity to decide for himself or herself the leader or party presenting the best ideas to enhance the country's development.

Hakkeeem Harper