Time for the stability of fixed election dates


Time for the stability of fixed election dates

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

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There is enough on record to advise Prime Minister Andrew Holness that a game of cat and mouse with the nation's election dates can be of no productive purpose.

The nation's living memory, as well, will no doubt support this notion.

That is why many ears perked up when a previous Jamaica Labour Party Administration lobbed the idea of introducing fixed election dates here. There was nary a dissenting voice.

However, for reasons best known to those in the Parliament, this matter has not had more than its 15 minutes in the news cycle.

Make no bones about it, this paradigm shift will not be easily attained. It will require the changing of the mindset of the people and legislators to arrive at this level of political maturity.

But we have proven we can do it, and have come a far way. Just this week we saw scenes of green- and orange-clad supporters enjoying friendly rivalry in streets — a near impossibility just over a decade ago.

True, there has been much revelry with the teasing and aposiopesis-laced conversations of prime ministers with the electorate, over the years, as they hold election dates to their chest awaiting days of particular significance to them.

This will be missed, but such a step in our political evolution beckons to us.

We, in this space, while not diminishing the independence a prime minister takes with his seat as leader of the Government, would wish that Prime Minister Andrew Holness take wisdom from the years past.

Against this background, we are glad that the prime minister has gone ahead and announced that the nation will go to the polls on Thursday, September 3, 2020, so that the business of selection can run its course.

Elections, whether general or local government, take a toll on the country. The run-up and polls themselves take the focus away from determined stewardship as the power struggle between the parties rises to the top.

The 2020 Jamaican economy cannot withstand any departure from a commitment to growth and fiscal discipline for the sake of electioneering.

Prime Minister Holness must go forward into this period with a clear understanding that the post-election road will not be made any less challenging as the novel coronavirus uptick and the threat of a devastating weather system wait in the wings of his political theatre.

We have seen our sister Caribbean nations have differing experiences as the people exercise their franchise. Suriname, with a history of coup d'états by the military, had a near-seamless election. We are now seeing the resolution of the Guyana March 2, 2020 polls after some four months of impasse. Trinidad and Tobago took its turn at the wicket on Monday this week.

Much is expected from Jamaica as our political development is the stuff of many conversations when world leaders meet.

Challenging as it may be, the prime minister who will lead us into the next decade must give importance to the establishment of a fixed election date. This is the level of stability the country needs to advance the mission of growth.

Investors and entrepreneurs need this safeguard as they put their trust in the host of possibilities that abound. And the team at the electoral office will celebrate a fixed target.

The political leadership must take the bull by the horns and advance the mission.

The electorate must hold the prime minister responsible for setting the play.

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