The Prime Minister, Portia Simpson Miller, has announced that August 27 will be election day in Jamaica.
So who will win the election ?
There have been no new polls published this week (well, Bill Johnson has produced polls of a sort) , so the PNP is still ahead as far as we know.
How is it possible that Jamaica should be considering giving the PNP a fifth term ? Why does it appear likely that they will win ?
The Prime Minister remains the most popular politician in the country. Much has been said about the folly of voting for people we like, but being popular is a necessary condition for being elected in any democracy. It is not the only condition, of course. Policies are important, and performance and anticipated performance are important. All that being said, political analysts tell us that when the voter is in the polling booth, they think about who they want to be Prime Minister NOT about who they want to be their M.P.
In 18 years of PNP government Jamaicans have had their daily lives transformed. Not only does everyone have a cellphone, but busy professionals and businessmen often have several supplied by different providers. The bus service has been improved by massive subsidies and increased regulation. Young people can now buy a car within a few months of securing a job, as credit unions and banks compete to offer 90% financing. Office parking lots are full of brand new deportees (3 year old second-hand cars imported from Japan).
The Government of Jamaica remains the biggest employer of salaried workers. Despite the long standing program of “Public Sector Reform”, the one thing the government has NOT done is to decrease the size of the public sector. The JLP did cut private sector employment in the 80’s and paid for it at the ballot box in 1989. People will put up with a tiny salary and poor working conditions if the alternative is having no job……
The industries established by the JLP in the 1980’s (garment industry, data entry, non-traditional crops) have vanished with globalization and improved communications technologies. The non-traditional crops that have succeeded (mangoes, dasheen, ackees) are not the ones promoted by the JLP in the 80″s (winter vegetables, rice……).
The construction of new highways and the construction of the Spanish hotels has provided thousand of jobs (temporary in construction, permanent in the tourism industries). The men employed in construction are looking forward to the work still to come (the Kingston – Ocho Rios highway, the new hotels planned all over the North Coast). Everyone else is looking forward to all the spin-offs from the new hotels (jobs, markets for farm produce, new customers for restaurants and vendors).
The PNP is running 24 (out of a possible 60) new candidates. Among the new candidates are obvious Cabinet material like banker Peter Bunting and academic and trade unionist Trevor Munroe, who, we are being allowed to imagine, will replace two of the PNP’s least popular Ministers (Minister of Finance Omar Davies and Minister of Education Maxine Henry Wilson).
The crime plan already in place includes 4 police officers from Scotland Yard. Our faith in them may be touching, but so far the decline in the murder rate over the past 2 years suggests it may be justified.
The JLP is united in every respect except one – the former Opposition leader Edward Seaga feels free to criticize his successor, Bruce Golding, in public. The election date was announced on Sunday. The next day JLP leader Bruce Golding criticizes the Prime Minister for announcing the election 7 weeks (as opposed to the usual 3 weeks) in advance and announces that one of his first acts in office will be to introduce a fixed election date. Edward Seaga then goes on the talk shows to tell everyone why a fixed election date is a bad idea…..
Why is it still possible that the PNP could lose ?
The JLP may have found an election winner in its promise to spend 15% of the budget on education and to provide free secondary education for all children. Every parent feels the pain of the present cost sharing program.
The Prime Minister has persisted in defying the conventional wisdom. The pundits decided that she could not call the election in August ( because people are on holiday; the teachers, who are the backbone of the electoral system on election day, are preparing for the new school year; parents who struggling with the cost of books, uniforms and school fees don’t think kindly of any government in August) and she has called the election in August. She may have gambled one time too many, and the pundits may have last laugh.
The PNP are mired in corruption and have broken election promises left, right and centre. Very few people have been fired or punished, and those who have been forced out (like Dr. Vin Lawrence) are back on the party platforms within months. Or they reappear as “consultants” to government agencies earning huge fees.
Pastor Phinn, who has prophesied victory for the PM, may be wrong. (For those interested in prophecies, the Pastor is also predicting that Hillary Clinton will become President of the U.S. in 2008 and Jamaica will discover oil very soon…..)
The simple desire for change may yet overturn Prime Minister Charming.
Why can the JLP win, despite what the pollsters predict?
There is no historical precedent for these elections ( a Government seeking a fifth term), hence the election may, for once, come down to the particular candidate running in each constituency. The JLP has been on the ground in all 60 constituencies for over a year and are very well organized. They are confident that the JLP can win as long as the voters vote for who they want as their M.P., instead of for party or Prime Minister.
Why we should want the JLP to win
Eighteen years is too long for any government to be in power, albeit under 3 different leaders (Manley, Patterson, Simpson Miller).
The Cabinet is beyond tired and bereft of energy and ideas.
Corruption permeates every aspect of Jamaican life. Political connections are still more important than competence and reputation when government contracts are being awarded, and there are hundreds of new, but shoddily built houses, roads and schools across the island as proof that neither P.J. nor Portia are serious about “stamping out corruption”.
The JLP and PNP have very similar programs and policies, however the PNP has proven to be weak on implementation. Time for a new team to tackle the country’s needs and wants.
Why we should want the PNP to win
Times have changed and the JLP have not changed with them. The JLP has failed in 18 years to produce a leader with whom most people can either identify (Patterson, Simpson Miller) or adore (Manley). The PNP has had three very popular leaders over the same period. If the JLP loses again, they will be forced to seek a leader and a slate of candidates who can actually win a general election……
[posted with ecto]