Category: Jamaica Created on Saturday, 26 November 2011 12:14
The next general elections in Jamaica may be called for next month, December 2011!
Jamaicans waited with held breath on Sunday, November 20, 2011, to hear the new and youngest Prime Minister, Andrew Holness, announce an election date. Alas, breaths had to be freed and anticipations disappointed as no date was announced. Speculation is however that December will be the month for the eagerly anticipated voting exercise.
As a young girl during the infamous 1980’s election period in Jamaica, I recalled exciting moments when my surroundings and the atmosphere resembled that of an exciting scene in a suspense/drama movie. Rumours of gunfights and scarcity seemed more exciting to me, than scary, as my parents managed to protect my childish sensibilities from the harsh picture that it really was. While I did not enjoy, for a period, fancy snacks from the United States of America, that was only temporary: its restoration was attributed to the results of the election: Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) won the elections.
The violent incidents were indeed much harsher than I was exposed to. Michael Manley, the fourth Prime Minister of Jamaica, had a turbulent eight-year tenure during which he was accused of paving the way for Jamaica to become a Communist State. In his concession speech after losing to Edward Seaga led JLP, Manley said:
“Maybe what I did wrong was to challenge the power of the western economic structure ... And for this I will remain unrepentant and unreconstructed", Jamaica Gleaner, August 29, 2006.
As far as Manley was concerned, his loss in the general elections at the time was related to local as well as regional influences and pressure.
The JLP came and remained in power for two consecutive terms. When elections were called by the Prime Minister Seaga in 1983, the opposing People’s National Party (PNP) boycotted the elections and all 60 Parliamentary seats were occupied by the Jamaica Labour Party. The implementation of the plans of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) pushed the country into negative economic growth for two years. Seaga turned away from the IMF in 1986 but despite this move, the JLP suffered a significant loss in the parish council elections held that year with the PNP taking 12 out of 13 municipalities. According to an American Policy Analyst, Timothy Ashby:
“...because Edward Seaga is identified so closely with the Reagan Administration, the failure of his economic revitalization programme will be viewed internationally as a setback for U.S. developmental and regional security policies. This could damage the credibility of the free enterprise model which the U.S. seeks to introduce to the developing world and could unravel the Reagan Administration's carefully woven Caribbean strategy..”
The JLP lost the general elections in 1989: another move against or contradiction of international or regional policies by the Jamaican Government occurring simultaneously with an election loss.
The impending elections in Jamaica, follows closely on the heels of an extradition dispute between Jamaica and the United States of America. The Golding Administration refused to sign the extradition request on the basis that the evidence was obtained contrary to Jamaican laws. This information was brought to the public’s attention during a sitting of Parliament on 16 March 2010. Opposition member Dr. Peter Phillips made reference to an alleged contractual arrangement between the JLP led Government and a United States law firm, Manatt, Phelps and Phillips, to lobby the United States Government on the treaty dispute. Following the revelation, there were calls for the resignation of the Prime Minister, his apology to the nation, a State of Emergency called to capture the wanted man and ultimately, the resignation of Bruce Golding as the leader of the JLP. In his statement regarding his decision, Golding said:
"The challenges of the last four years have taken their toll and it was appropriate now to make way for new leadership to continue the programmes of economic recovery and transformation, while mobilizing the party for victory in the next general election."
Shortly after his resignation in September 2011, Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke, who serves New York’s 11th District, released a statement in response to the resignation:
“Today we learned that Prime Minister Bruce Golding has decided to step down as leader of the Jamaican Labour Party (JLP) and as Prime Minister, beginning in November. I recognize that this must have been a difficult decision for Prime Minister Golding and I respect his decision to do what he has stated is, in his personal judgment, ‘what is best for the country…. I will continue to work with all the stakeholders in the Caribbean Diaspora to strengthen and bolster relations between Jamaica, the entire Caribbean region and the United States of America.”
The congresswoman’s statement implied the need to restore the damaged relationship between the United States, Caribbean and Jamaican governments.
Yet again, there is a significant change within the political arena in Jamaica following a regional or international contradiction of policies: the resignation of a Prime Minister.
In October 2011, before he was sworn in as Prime Minister, Andrew Holness and Bruce Golding visited Washington DC to meet with multilateral agencies to “.. provide assurance to the multilateral agencies that there is not a change of the policies of the government…”according to Daryl Vaz, Minister of Information, at a Post-Cabinet press briefing.
No doubt, from past experiences, assurances must be made in order to influence the outcome of the next general elections, due to be called before September 2012. The meeting in Washington and the anticipated election date for December 2011 would seem to be a wise move by the ruling party to ensure a second term in office.
Jamaica has been independent for almost 50 years. With this independence came the right to vote, to place in political servitude the party voted by the majority as most able to lead the country and be responsible for implementing policies and making decisions in the best interest of the nation. Are the inked fingers truly significant in this national decision-making process or do the decisions rest elsewhere?
Editor-in-Chief's Note: Tina Simone Mowatt is a freelance contributor with MNI Alive.