Jamaican General Election: December 29 and More
Most of my usual visitors might not be interested in this, but I’m going ahead with it anyway. Ever since I was young and growing up in Jamaica I’ve had a huge interest in politics and wanted to be the Prime Minister of Jamaica one day. I dislike the American political system and still follow the Jamaican political system closely.
Jamaican General/Parliamentary Elections are democratic elections to elect the lower house of parliament (consisting of Members of Parliament) and to elect a political party to governance. The political party which forms the government after the election is based on who holds the majority of electoral seats and, therefore, holds a majority in parliament. The two major political parties in Jamaica are the governing Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and the main opposition People’s National Party (PNP). There are other minor political parties such as the National Democratic Movement (NDM) and the New Nation Coalition (NNC) but these parties offer no serious challenge to the two traditional parties. Elections are constitutionally due in Jamaica every 5 years, but elections have been called as short a time as 2 and a half years and as long as 6 years after the previous election.
There are 3 counties in Jamaica (Cornwall, Middlesex and Surrey), split into 14 parishes (eg. Saint Andrew, Kingston and Saint James) and these parishes are then split into 63 electoral constituencies (eg. East Rural Saint Andrew, West Kingston, South Central Saint James). It’s those 63 constituencies that are all important to political parties. Each party nominates a candidate for the constituencies and the Jamaican electorate votes for the candidate that they want to elect to parliament and be their Member of Parliament after the election. As I said before, the party which comes out with the majority of constituencies in their grasp on election night forms the government and the cabinet (consisting of Ministers of Government).
Note: There was 32 constituencies from 1944 to 1959, 45 constituencies from 1959-1967, 53 constituencies from 1967-1976, 60 constituencies from 1976-2011 and the 2011 general election will be the first election to consist of 63 constituencies.
Past Jamaican General Elections
JLP: 22 [Alexander Bustamante]
PNP: 5 [Norman Manley]
IND (Indepedent): 5
JLP: 17 [Alexander Bustamante]
PNP: 12 [Norman Manley]
PNP: 18 [Norman Manley]
JLP: 14 [Alexander Bustamante]
PNP: 29 [Norman Manley]
JLP: 16 [Alexander Bustamante]
JLP: 26 [Alexander Bustamante]
PNP: 19 [Norman Manley]
JLP: 33 [High Shearer]
PNP: 20 [Norman Manley]
PNP: 37 [Michael Manley]
JLP: 16 [Hugh Shearer]
PNP: 47 [Michael Manley]
JLP: 13 [Edward Seaga]
JLP: 51 [Edward Seaga]
PNP: 9 [Michael Manley]
JLP: 60 [Edward Seaga]
PNP: 45 [Michael Manley]
JLP: 15 [Edward Seaga]
PNP: 52 [P.J. Patterson]
JLP: 8 [Edward Seaga]
PNP: 50 [P.J. Patterson]
JLP: 10 [Edward Seaga]
PNP: 34 [P.J. Patterson]
JLP: 26 [Edward Seaga]
JLP: 32 [Bruce Golding]
PNP: 28 [Portia Simpson-Miller]
The party leaders at the time of the election (Prime Ministers (for winning party) or Opposition Leader (for losing party) after the election) are in square brackets beside the parties. The PNP boycotted the 1983 snap elections (elections which are called long before they are due, many times suddenly).
There has been a noticeable pattern of Jamaica switching government every two elections, until the PNP’s unprecedented 18 and a half years of unbroken rule with their 45-15 crushing of the JLP in 1989, their 52-8 and 50-10 demolitions of the JLP in 1993 and 1997 and their relatively narrow 34-26 win in the 2002 election. Their long reign of power came to an end in 2007 as they lost the closest election in Jamaican history 28-32.
In 2010 Jamaica went through one of its most challenging times in its history. The Jamaican government (JLP) found itself in an extradition battle with the United States over a drug lord, don and alleged murder who resided in Jamaica and was wanted by the United States for many crimes it is alleged that he had committed or were associated with there. It is suspected that said criminal, known as ‘Dudus’, had links with the then-JLP leader Bruce Golding and other JLP members. This caused a huge fall in the approval ratings of the JLP leader and a fall in support for the JLP. The affair cost Jamaica 73 lives in a major incursion into the Tivoli stronghold which was controlled by Dudus and was key JLP territory in elections; a wasted commission of inquiry cost the country millions. Many other instances of corruption and scandal under the JLP administration caused them to futher lose ground.
In September 2011, with the PNP way way way ahead in polls, then-JLP leader Bruce Golding finally resigned and Andrew Holness, Jamaica’s youngest Prime Minister ever at 39, was elected as JLP leader and Prime Minister. Andrew Holness had been doing an excellent job as education minister prior to his taking over of the top office and his young age and qualifications has given the JLP a huge boost in the polls. Although the JLP has definitely closed the game on the PNP, they haven’t manged to get too far pass them and most polls show the difference between the two parties within the poll’s margin of error, making the polls a statistical tie. Due to this bounce, Andrew Holness has decided to call an election for December 29, 2011, 10 months before they are due. This is a typical tactic. Since in Jamaica the Prime Minister can call elections at his own discretion, Mr. Holness has called the election when his party has received a boost from his rising to power.
Well nomination day was December 12 and all 63 candidates were nominated. Elections are set for December 29. Who will win? Not sure. Polls are so close.
For more information on Jamaica elections, check out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jamaican_general_election,_2011 and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elections_in_Jamaica.
I am now a dual-citizen, holding both Jamaican and American citizenship, so my dreams of entering representation politics in Jamaica have been soiled. But I can still vote. I voted in the 2007 election and will be returning to Jamaica to visit my family and vote later in December. I voted for the Jamaica Labour Party in 2007 and plan to vote for the People’s National Party on December 29. Reasons I’m voting for the PNP:
- The levels of corruption and dishonesty from the JLP during their 4 years in power is unprecedented in Jamaica.
- During the PNP’s last 3 years of power 110,000 jobs were created; during the JLP’s first 3 years in power 90,000 jobs were lost. The creation of jobs was a huge promise that won them power last election.
- The Jamaican economy has begun growing again, but began growing long after the rest of the Caribbean region.
- The PNP has outperformed the JLP in the two debates, social issues and finance, which have been held so far. The leadership debate hasn’t yet been held.
- Jamaica’s income difference between the richest and the poorest is larger than Haiti’s now and is better than only Suriname.
- The Jamaican macro-economy is rated as the worst in the world, ranked 142nd out of 142 countries.
- When the PNP took office in 1989 Jamaica’s poverty rate stood at 31%. The PNP took that rate down to 9% in their 18 years of power. Since the JLP has taken over, poverty has more than doubled, moving from 9% in 2007 to 20% in 2010.
- Jamaica’s debt has nearly doubled since the JLP took over.
And there are other reasons. I all honestly, I think whoever wins the election, the result will be the same: no major upward movement for Jamaica. Both parties had their chance and both parties failed. But I refuse to not vote, so I’m voting PNP.