Before I delve into this think piece, I would like to provide you with a disclaimer:
I am not affiliated with any political party. The thoughts and views expressed in this blog post are mine and mine alone. This post is not intended to swing your vote in either direction, nor demand that you exercise your voting franchise any at all (though you really should). I know not much of politics, therefore, the content herein is based on my limited understanding of the subject and my personal beliefs and reasoning capabilities.
Last fall the news of a pending election swept across Jamaica. Many thought the citizens would have been called to the polls during the Christmas period – like its 2011 predecessor – but that was not to be so as our current Prime Minister was duly awaiting the “touch from the Master”. Now, the “touch” has been received and Election Day is February 25, 2016.
Even if you have not been following current events zealously, there are a few notable things that the average citizen must be aware of at this point:
- The Opposition Leader, Hon. Andrew Holness, has a “questionable” Beverly Hills mansion (details of which he divulged in a full page spread in the Jamaica Gleaner).
- The People’s National Party has refused to participate in the national debate (citing “issues” with the integrity of the Leader of the Opposition).
- The Jamaica Labour Party has released a 10-point Economic Growth Plan (which the Prime Minister has dubbed a “10-point con”).
With all the news surrounding the election, my foremost issue is not for whom to vote, but rather the nation’s dire need for the reformation of our political process. Contrary to what some political engines may believe, the millennials, but more so the “#ArticulateMinority”, have little to no interest in the mud-slinging campaigns of old; in fact, I personally find those rather distasteful.
In the beginning, the probe into Holness’ financial affairs regarding the construction of his home seemed like a legitimate concern. Alas, I was disappointed, but not surprised, when I realized that the conversation around the topic was not much more than a ploy from the PNP to distract the electorate from the real issues – things they have yet to address substantially and to my satisfaction.
One party says “Step up the progress”, the other “From poverty to prosperity”, but with the manifestos being released less than a week before election day, how much dialogue can we really engage in with them about the contents of these documents? Dare I say that the national debate(s) would have enabled us to make a more informed decision based on the details of their strategies to achieve their various goals.But apparently the PNP is rife with contempt not only for the JLP, but the Jamaican people.
The national debate is not something to participate in as a favour to your opponent. Rather it should be considered as a mandatory exercise to expound on your plans to move the country forward over the course of the next 5 years; to further inform the electorate – whose support you are are soliciting – of how your plans will affect their lives, those of their children and their children’s children. I am certain that I am not the only one who feels (even slightly) insulted by the PNP’s decision. I cannot fathom how one would attempt to garner my vote but refuse to participate in an exercise that could very well be the deciding factor. Clearly a eediat yuh tek mi fah.
I have yet to fully digest the contents of both manifestos, but as a man of transgender experience living in Jamaica, I am wholeheartedly underwhelmed by the narrow or rather vague definition of the “vulnerable groups” that both parties make mention of in their respective manifestos. I feel entirely disregarded; as if only heterosexuals and cisgender individuals call Jamaica home; like the Harry Potter of the Jamaican society – the dirty little secret of whom you must never make mention; a second-class citizen in the country of my birth.
I am pleased however, with the level of scrutiny that the JLP’s proposed tax plan has been subject to. It is discussions such as these – discourse around the issues and proposed plans – that should drive our democracy. I sincerely wish our politics was more mature, but this is a move in the right direction. For future elections though, I hope to see these plans being disseminated at a much earlier point in the campaign and outlined in more detail.
This would effectively give the candidates and we the people, an opportunity to communicate our concerns, pose our questions and subsequently make any amendments before any attempt at implementation is made. It would also better enable us to make a more informed decision regarding for whom to vote based on the appeal and feasibility of their future plans.
My personal motivation (or lack thereof) to vote aside, I have a few suggestions with regards to the amelioration of our political process; many of which my fellow Jamaicans have also iterated.
- Implement a fixed election date.
- Impose restrictions on the number of terms (consecutively and otherwise) that a Prime Minister may serve.
- Ensure that the Local Government elections are held every 3 years in accordance with our Constitution. If cost is a concern, then conduct them in conjunction with the General election.
- Empower the people to elect their respective mayors.
- Separate the ballots for the Member of Parliament for the constituency and the Prime Minister of the country.
- Incorporate the national debate as a mandatory exercise in our political process; of which no less than three (3) should be held, the last of which should conclude at least one to two (1-2) weeks prior to polling day.
There have been several initiatives urging us to not only get enumerated, but also to exercise our franchise in deciding the future of our beloved nation. I feel as if our only sensible course of action has been reduced to selecting the “lesser of two evils”; a position akin to being in between a rock and a hard place. The decision of some persons might be dependent on their address, the party which they do not wish to see win, or something more arbitrary like the flip of a coin. Others like myself – to whom the “dirty politricks” does not appeal, or who might feel like their issues are not sufficiently addressed by the plans put forth – may be asking, “Mirror mirror on the wall, for whom to vote, if vote at all?”.