Undermining the democratic will of the people by vote-buying

Letters to the Editor

Undermining the democratic will of the people by vote-buying

Monday, September 09, 2019

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Dear Editor,

At the beginning of Jamaica's journey into Independence the cleaning up of the colonial mess in housing, education, health, infrastructure, the economy, and political representation and participation, etc was an unavoidably urgent national imperative.

In the early tentative steps of our march forward we made a huge historic blunder which continues to haunt our lives even as we mark the 57th anniversary of Independence.

That historical blunder was the creation of the garrison political complex out of a sinister attempt, ostensibly to deal with the colonial mess in housing.

This has left in its path a deadly tribal partisan division in which thousands were killed and burnt out amid the constant flow of guns in selected communities, framed in a culture of siege, suspicion, distrust, fear, criminality, and authoritarianism wedded to an anti-democratic impulse.

And, although the current problem of violence and the increase in the number of communities falling under the gun is less directly influenced by politics, the method of organising the garrison remains the form used today to project violence across Jamaica.

Today, Jamaica is sliding headlong into another political blunder, which suggests that some of our political and aspiring political leaders have not learned the appropriate lessons they should have learned from the earlier blunder. The practice of vote-buying is more tolerated and is harming the development of Jamaica's democratic culture. It is a singular disrespect to the people whose votes are deemed to be products of the marketplace. Moreover, those whose votes are bought are less likely to be in a position to hold the buyer to account. And the buyer does not have to convince the purchaser of his manifesto. He who has the money and the inclination to purchase votes is in an unfair position to determine political outcome. Vote-buying is a subversion of the democratic process and the undermining of trust — an important value in the cultivation of a democratic culture. Moreover, the buyer of votes is hardly in a position to come out against vote-buying.

Professor Clinton Hutton, PhD


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