This is why we need a fixed election date

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

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MOST Jamaicans, we suspect -- and that could include some of the Government's most blinkered supporters -- have not bought the spin that Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller put on her decision to retreat from calling a general election this year.


According to Mrs Simpson Miller, she considers it her duty to ensure that young people who have been recently enumerated get the opportunity to exercise their right to vote.


Those young people are among the estimated 30,000 Jamaicans who have been added to the voters' list which is expected to be published on November 30.


In addition to the voters' list argument, the prime minister suggested that her decision was also influenced by the fact that people prefer to enjoy the Christmas season without the distraction of politics.


But anyone who knows anything about politics in this country is quite aware of the fact that Mrs Simpson Miller's decision not to announce the election is driven solely by the fact that she is not convinced that her party would be comfortably re-elected at this time.


That insecurity rests in the fact, we believe, that the People's National Party (PNP) is reeling from instability over candidate selections, as well as the negative impact of the 'dead babies scandal' and the British prison gift.


Readers will recall that it was Dr Peter Phillips who, in August this year, first signalled to supporters at a meeting in St Mary that an election was imminent.


Since then, the ruling PNP has been increasing its campaign activities, staging rallies across the island, and finalising its slate of candidates.


Most naturally, the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) followed suit and has been on the hustings as well.


The result is that the country has been in full general election mode, with widespread expectations that we would go to the polls in 2015, a year ahead of the constitutionally due date.


 


All this gives strength to our advocacy of a fixed election date. For, as we have stated before in this space, the electoral process should not be held hostage to the party that forms the Government.


We reiterate that it is immoral to subject the constitutional rights of the Jamaican people to the raw political opportunism in which both the PNP and JLP engage every four or five years.


The current Government, it appears, does not favour a fixed election date, because the argument we hear coming from within its ranks is that in the United States -- where the policy exists -- politicians are constantly campaigning.


But that is a position steeped in pharisaism, because politicians' actions are dictated by their hope for favourable review every five years.


Towards the end of last week, we heard from the JLP that they are in favour of having a fixed date for elections. In fact, they said that position was clearly stated in their manifesto for the 2011 General Election.


Surprisingly, though, in the four years since that election, they are only now raising this issue, and that is after this newspaper, other media, the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce and the Electoral Commission of Jamaica (ECJ) have all voiced strong support for the policy.


Having a fixed date for elections, we maintain, is more conducive to economic and social stability and will, as the ECJ told us, contribute to better management of the electoral process.


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