Whip hand for Mr Andrew Holness and the JLP


Whip hand for Mr Andrew Holness and the JLP

Monday, August 10, 2020

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Even if Prime Minister Andrew Holness does not name an early September date for the next parliamentary general election, as is widely expected, what we know for sure is that it won't be long.

Under the law, the election can't be any later than the first five months of next year. That's just around the corner.

However, indications are that it will be within weeks.

The results of a Bill Johnson poll published by this newspaper have only served to concretise the logic for Mr Holness to name the date now, since COVID-19 could have even more negative consequences for Jamaicans over coming months, which could hurt the ruling party.

The latest poll conducted among 1,200 voting-age Jamaicans, over July 9-12, found that the ruling Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) had a 19-percentage-point lead over the Opposition People's National Party (PNP) led by Dr Peter Phillips.

We are told that when researchers asked people which of the two parties they think they would vote for in the next general election, 36 per cent said JLP, compared to 17 per cent PNP.

We are told that the numbers for a March poll — which were not published at the time — were 33 per cent JLP and 19 per cent PNP. All of that is consistent with polling and anecdotal evidence of mass appeal — especially among young people — of Mr Holness and the JLP.

It is also consistent with the big win for the JLP in the 2016 local government elections which followed the narrow one-seat win in parliamentary elections that year, as well as by-election results since then.

It would appear, if polls are to be believed, that Mr Holness and his party have remained untainted — in the eyes of most potential voters — by the several corruption scandals to have hit the Government. It has to be said, of course, that historically Jamaican voters have been disinclined to place too much weight on alleged corruption.

How to counter the popularity of 48-year-old Mr Holness and his party is the unenviable task for the 70-year-old Dr Phillips and the PNP, as time runs out.

His relative youth apart, Mr Holness's popularity among the young especially, apparently has much to do with his command of social media and allied modalities, and sophisticated public relations. With traditional forms of campaigning set to go through the window because of COVID-19, Mr Holness and the JLP seem well ahead of the game.

Crucially, analysts shouldn't discount the legacy value of the $1.5 million income tax threshold initiative which was delivered as promised by the JLP in 2016. Undoubtedly, that promise contributed immensely to that party's shock win in 2016.

To the credit of the JLP Government, until the COVID-19 pandemic struck, they had seamlessly continued the economic recovery programme inherited from the Portia Simpson Miller-led PNP Government in 2016.

Also, Mr Holness and his Government have executed a number of labour-intensive infrastructural projects over the last four years. That the PNP can claim to having planned and/or initiated most of those projects will probably mean little to the average voter.

Dr Phillips and the PNP have a mountain to climb.

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