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EDITORIAL - PNP rebounds but has no time to gloat

Published:Friday | December 30, 2011 | 12:00 AM

With a decisive margin of victory for the People's National Party (PNP) from yesterday's general election, the outcome illustrates the resilience of that party and the enduring popularity of its leader, Portia Simpson Miller, who has again been propelled to the job of prime minister.

Merely four years ago, the PNP was chucked out of office after nearly two decades in Government. It was assumed that it was in for a substantial period of Opposition. That is how it used to be.

Yesterday's result, though, underscores an increasing fluidity in Jamaican politics as independent voters take risks, thereby threatening the monopoly on power by the hard-core supporters of the parties.

In this election, however, the PNP had substantial help from the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), which was punished by voters as much, and perhaps more, for its political misdeeds - such as the Christopher Coke extradition fiasco and the scandal over the management of a Chinese-funded infrastructure project - as its handling of the crisis-riddled economy.

No time for hype

Such an acknowledgement by Mrs Simpson Miller and her team will not only temper any inclination towards undue hype and celebration, but impel the administration towards a new, and higher quality of governance, including bankable commitments to transparency and public accountability.

In any event, given the depth and complexity of the economic crisis facing Jamaica, the administration has no time for a honeymoon.

For example, the administration has to immediately begin, and quickly conclude, its promised renegotiation with the International Monetary Fund for a new facility to replace the previous Government's standby agreement, whose wheels fell off more than a year ago. Simultaneously, the administration has to advance public-sector, tax and pension reforms in its effort to tackle the fiscal deficit, which drives an unsustainable national debt that, at J$1.6 trillion, is 130 per cent of GDP.

The Cabinet that Mrs Simpson Miller names over the next few days, including whether she selects a deputy, and the authority that is afforded to that person, will say much about how deeply she has internalised these issues and the urgency she attaches to them. All the skills required for the job are not in the public sector or the PNP. She must be prepared to look elsewhere for them.

Future leader

Even as she addresses the economic issues, the PNP leader also has fundamental political matters to attend to, including transition. Just over two weeks before the election, Mrs Simpson Miller turned 66. At the next constitutionally due election, she will be 71, facing a JLP leader - assuming Mr Holness survives his party's defeat, which should not be a problem - who will be 44.

It is coming close to the time for leadership renewal in the PNP. Mrs Simpson Miller must, therefore, put in place a process for an orderly and timely succession which, for practical considerations, should be well ahead of the next election.

With regard to Mr Holness, in his mere months as its leader, he rescued the JLP from a more embarrassing defeat, the course on which the party was set by his predecessor, Mr Bruce Golding. Nonetheless, Mr Holness should expect speculative probes from a disgruntled older guard, and the ambitious young ones, who were forced to make way for his leadership.

Should he fail to hold his nerve and stamp his authority on the party, Mr Holness' stay at the helm of the JLP will be short-lived.

The opinions on this page, except for the above, do not necessarily reflect the views of The Gleaner. To respond to a Gleaner editorial, email us: or fax: 922-6223. Responses should be no longer than 400 words. Not all responses will be published.