And so said, so done. Democracy has played her hand and the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) has been returned to power after claiming 33 of the 63 seats to the 30 seats claimed by their opponents, the Peoples National Party (PNP). Some have the JLP’s victory as the biggest upset of all upsets predicted; considering polls prior to the election day would have placed the PNP on a route to victory. The results have left many wondering what went wrong? What went right? What mistake or mistakes could have costed them an election that they didn’t foresee happening? Here’s what I think.
It was arrogance. Often times a word we use to play down someone’s character, but let me state unequivocally that my intention here is not to disrespect the PNP; or prop up the JLP. But to give a critical and objective post-election analysis. So to my die-hard comrades and labourites who are reading this, please don’t take it the wrong way. This arrogance is something I have been observing for some time now, ever since talks of an election started to slip through the cracks in late October 2015. Then Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller took a big risk when she reassigned Dr Fenton Ferguson for his mismanagement of the Health Ministry, instead of removing him from parliament altogether. I think she bet too much on the fruits borne from the IMF program to keep the people happy, and it was from then that the mistrust began and the people started to see the deficiencies in their quality of government.
Following that blunder, we saw two very prominent youth in leadership Mr Damion Crawford and Mr Raymond Pryce in what it would appear to be a brawl between the Young and the Old. Crawford’s response to the party’s decision not put him on the slate of candidates hindered the party more than they realized; especially with senior party heads like General Secretary Paul Burke and Senator Dr Angela Brown-Burke seemingly “fighting out the Utes”. But I think Raymond Pryce’s unfortunate exit from the leadership of the party costed the party the biggest decrease in the youth vote; especially given the fact that it highlighted the indifference of some comrades towards Portia Simpson Miller as party leader. It sort of removed the mystic that surrounded Mama P of being the most loved among ALL her followers, which humanized her enough for the JLP to capitalize as best as possible.
What was noticeable for me was that meanwhile all this is happening in the PNP, the JLP camp was tightening their machinery and perfecting their impression of being a party united in solidarity behind their leader Andrew Holness. It’s funny because I doubt much people recall that it was just a few months ago the party delegates met to discuss his fate as party leader. All water under the bridge now, since the power has been reclaimed (or is it?).
But fast forward to the election now, a few things stood out for me. The JLP I think had a very clean and structured campaign which utilized more modes of communication than the PNP; and ultimately made them more effective in their reach. The PNP, in their arrogance I presume, neglected social media engagement and youth interaction because they thought that the people would see beyond the JLP’s party tricks; and pick sense out of nonsense. Notwithstanding this, the PNP still did an impeccable job with their campaign, and must be commended for this.
The JLP also consistently maintained an inclusive marketing strategy in their advertisements which was very noticeable in them using up a lot of their new candidates (especially their women) to be the face of some adverts. Conversely, the PNP I think focused mainly on their “people pullers” like the party leader Mrs Simpson Miller and their campaign manager and Gleaner’s man of the year for 2015 Dr Peter Phillips to name a few; neglecting the other factions of the electorate whom were anticipating to see someone different, or maybe younger sending the message to step up the progress. They did however make an effort with the advert from Damion Crawford later down in the campaign; but by then the attention had shifted to the party manifestos.
The focus I think on Andrew Holness’ Mansion on the hill by the PNP only strengthened the JLP’s message for prosperity; especially after he silenced their strategy with what some would say was a reasonable explanation as to how he managed to acquire such an asset. Now to the average Jamaican in the struggle, experiencing a fight from “badmind people”, Andrew would have caught their appeal with this revelation and further inspired them to partner with him for prosperity. His act to reveal himself to the people and get so personal I think suggested to many that he has grown considerably since 2011, is willing to equalize with the Jamaican people to prove his sincerity and might just be serious about strengthening the transparency and integrity of our governance.
The PNP’s refusal to debate was a poor strategic move, and one which set them couple paces behind in the pursuit for power. After being predominantly silent on topical issues over the last several years, the Jamaican people were anticipating to hear what their Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller had to say; and more importantly how she would square off against a more learnt Andrew Holness. But it would appear to many that the PNP believed facing the people in this way was not a necessity for them to win the race, while not realizing that the people did in fact hold the staging of a debates in high regard. At this point, I think the people started to question the integrity of the PNP, and how far they fall on the party’s list of priorities; a party that is suppose to be for the people. The JLP cunningly, further charged their message of partnership for prosperity; leaving the average Jamaican to think they would be valued more on the greener side of the field.
All in all, I hope these election results sent a strong message to both political parties about how the motivations to vote have evolved in the last decade. The Economy can no longer be the focal point going forward, but the approach must be balanced to produce strides in other areas of our governance like Healthcare, Water Security, National Security, Youth Development and Education to name a few. I don’t think a 45.5% voter turnout for this elections is anything to be proud of either, coming from a 53% voter turnout in the 2011 elections. I hope this new government, the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), takes some time to reflect on what this really means for democracy as an institution of our governance; and the work they must put in this term to inspire us again. I would also want to charge the two political leaders to put aside the childish bickering between opposition and government, and work towards to building a better Jamaica for all. For the sake of Jamaica Land we love, please let’s do this together.