Thu | Jun 1, 2023

Ready, set, VOTE!

Published:Wednesday | November 30, 2011 | 12:00 AM

by Damion Blake, GUEST COLUMNIST

The Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and the People's National Party (PNP) have been working overtime in the political gym to get themselves fit and ready for what will be an intensely contested political race.

Recent polls suggest that the JLP has clawed back much of the deficit that existed between it and the PNP, but the momentum of the Holness factor has apparently not given the Labourites the breathing room they would have desired.

Prime Minster Andrew Holness wants his own mandate; Opposition Leader Portia Simpson Miller believes she has a date with destiny and she, too, wants to get her hands on the elusive mandate she missed out on in 2007. The race is on!

Voting is a central part of democracy - it is the heart that pumps life through the body of a political system. Jamaicans are now called upon to exercise their political right to vote into Parliament a team of leaders they believe will best represent their interests at the constituency and national level.

As we wait in the blocks listening keenly for the sound of the starter's gun, there are some important questions we must ask and get answers to about the readiness of the political parties, (People's National Party and the Jamaica Labour Party) and also about the preparedness of the electoral system. As citizens, we, too, must be ready to exercise our franchise to ensure that the reins of governmental power are given to most capable political representatives in this time of grave economic uncertainty.

Electoral integrity

The electorate, especially those from the middle class, expects that the Electoral Commission of Jamaica (ECJ) will be ready to uphold the integrity of voting in all constituencies. The chairman of the ECJ, Professor Errol Miller, has reported that the commission has received the remaining J$150 million to complete its readiness in holding Jamaica's 12th general election since Independence.

If we intend to avoid 'false-starts', 'lane-switching' and the use of 'banned substances' to illegally enhance performance by our political parties, the ECJ must be ready and set to go. Elections in Jamaica have come a far way and the days of wide-scale electoral fraud and poor management have diminished markedly.

In our last two general elections (2002 and 2007), the international democratic watchdog agency, Freedom House, gave Jamaica a good grade in terms of its political rights. On a scale of 1-7, with 1 being the highest, Jamaica scored 2 in both instances. As Prime Minister Holness appears to be in a rush to call the next election, we expect that the considerable gains we have made in conducting free and fair, and free from fear, voting are upheld in all constituencies - garrison and non-garrison.

Polls and the Issues

As both major parties conduct their internal audits of constituencies, and as they read the national polls about their favourability with the electorate, they must address some key issues. At the top of the political menu should be the issue of the national debt and the economy. The case of Greece has shown that when the issue of an expanding debt stock and jobless growth are left unattended, the results can be disastrous.

Prime Minister Holness and the JLP should not be sidetracked by their current upsurge in the national polls. If the JLP intends to remain in Gordon House, it must continue to have an open and frank dialogue about the issue of our debt crisis. The PNP must also pay attention to this mammoth issue of Jamaica's debt debacle, which, as at August, stood at J$1.6 trillion. This effectively means that each of us, enumerated or not, faces a personal debt of about J$600,000.

We have a responsibility as voters to demand that our political representatives provide answers to the tough questions on the issues that most concern us. Let us join hands with the media and civil-society groups in making more calls for an issues-based electoral campaign this time around. After all, when the race has been run and a winner declared, the problems of the economy and unemployment will still be hanging over our heads.

Damion Blake is an instructor/PhD student at Virginia Tech State University. Email feedback to and