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J'cans want direct vote for PM

Published:Friday | October 17, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Eighty per cent of Jamaicans want to vote directly for their prime minister, according to a Gleaner-commissioned Bill Johnson poll.

This suggests that the country is willing to discard the current Westminster arrangement, whereby the political party with the most members in Parliament elects a head of government. A direct vote to choose the prime minister would accommodate a shift to the Republican system of government, where an executive president or prime minister gets the nod from voters.

At the same time, 82 per cent of the electorate are of the view that the Constitution should be amended to allow voters to recall non-performing members of parliament (MPs).

Johnson's survey revealed that 14 per cent of the population want the status quo to remain, leaving the decision to elect a prime minister in the hands of the party with more seats in the nation's Parliament.

In a poll conducted on September 6 and 7 and September 13 and 14, with a sample size of 1,010 enumerated Jamaicans, six per cent of those surveyed were unsure of how the prime minister should be elected.

For decades, successive prime ministers in Jamaica from the 1970s have signaled their intention to implement sweeping constitutional reforms, including taking steps to remove The Queen as head of state and introducing a republican system of government.

Leader of government business in the House of Representatives, Phillip Paulwell, responding to the issue of constitutional reform earlier this year, said the Upper and Lower Houses of Parliament would work closely, in the new legislative year, to examine the measures required for the country to make a full transition to a republican system.


When Johnson conducted his survey in September, the electorate also sent a strong message to delinquent MPs, as 82 per cent said the Constitution should be changed to allow voters in a constituency to recall, or vote out of office before the next election, any MP who is not performing his or her duties in a proper way.

The results of the latest Johnson polls give credence to consistent complaints on talk shows by constituents about their non-performing political representatives, who are often said to be missing in action.

Some non-performing MPs would be allowed to continue for their full term in office if 12 per cent of those polled had their way. Another six per cent of those enumerated answered "I don't know" to the question.