The race is on, and whilst many see the current administration Of the Andrew Holness Led, JLP, as odds on Favourite to retain power, Smart money is banking on the Opposition Led PNP, Mark Golding to stage a massive upset, and canter to a decisive victory.
For many of the talking heads, who give the JLP the edge over the PNP, they say, the JLP will outspend the PNP two-to-one, to secure a third term. They also cite the current make-up of the Parliament, where the JLP holds 49 seats to the PNP’s 14, as giving the JLP a numerical advantage from the starting block, as another reason, for favouring the JLP.
Superficially, those who advance those reasons are correct, but a deep dive into the 2020 Elections that produced those numbers will expose the weakness and folly of those arguments as a starting point, as they are basically correct in positing that politics is a numbers game, but the most important part of that game is to note who has been multiplying and who has been subtracting to their numbers since the outlier of the 2020 general election, where Andrew Holness was still seen as a relative newcomer, and so should be given an opportunity to stamp his own authority on governance, to achieve the transformation he promised in changing the trajectories in two specific areas of daily lives?
Prosperity Eluding Voters
First, there was the Promise of ‘Prosperity”; and then there was the Promise of National Security, and fixing the Crime Problem, which would lead to a reduction in the number of murders across the country.
Let us talk about Promised Prosperity, for many Jamaicans, Prosperity is still an elusive dream, compounded by the rising cost of basic food, transport, electricity, and communications costs. It cost twice as much in 2023, to be able to afford the same basket of groceries as it would in 2020. And whatever incremental increase there have been in salary adjustments, have been eroded by inflation, compounding the problem. So, it is not just food that costs more, but the cost of services has also skyrocketed, at macro and granular levels, tightening the financial noose already strangling the middle class and squeezing dear life out of the poor.
The poor have perfected their own coping mechanisms, but the middle class is on the verge of extinction as they are now being forced to face the harsh realities that their living standards are untenable, as rising costs for security, property maintenance, pilates, and yoga classes, gym fees and or the cost of private instructors; long lazy lunches, and or simply dining out, are all becoming more and more prohibitive.
In short, it is becoming more and more expensive, for the middle class to live above their means, as lunch for two at the upscale restaurant/eateries favoured by them, is now costing $50,000.00. Dinner for four could run up to the astronomical figure of $ 150,000.00 and more. It is now safe to say, the party is over for the middle class, and the poor, have been further marginalized.
The prime Minister in his quest for the Leadership of the Country, whilst on the campaign hustings lamented that the poor were so abused by Government policies, they had resorted to eating “Fish-Back”, to supplement their protein requirement. Well, under his stewardship, supermarkets have now taken to retailing the skeletonized remains of Chicken, after deboning; and other scraps that used to be thrown out or sold as Dog-Food, are income earners for these establishments, as items such as chicken back, chicken feet, entrails, cow’s skin, and trotters are now regarded as luxury items, by those who used to buy them.
So all of this with its direct impact on the people, has only served to diminish the Appeal of Holness and his administration, and reports of manifest corruption, coupled with the recently announced massive increase in parliamentary salaries and Ministers, particularly that of the Prime Minister and The Finance Minister, has not endeared the Administration to the voting public.
Crime, Fear, And Insecurity, Stalking The Land:
The much hackneyed and talked about and promised Fix, for crime to reduce the Murder rate, that was promised to the people from back in the day when Derrick Smith was MP and Shadow Spokesperson on National Security, to the promise of the Prime Minister that a vote for the PNP could see many waking up dead, ostensibly murdered by marauding gun-toting criminals, that would have been averted, with his election, and would result in the population being able to sleep with their windows and doors open, not only seem to have evaporated, but the situation have gotten worse, with the problem has been amplified to the point, that the population is no longer constrained by the fear of home invasion, it now has to contend with falling victim to gunmen, in public spaces., as the gunmen have gotten more brazen in recent years, attacking and murdering in public places with no care or regards for bystanders.
So, forget being able to sleep with windows and doors open. That too is still a major concern, but for most Jamaicans, the immediate concern is being gunned down in an open place, whilst going about their lawful business. And as far as they are concerned, the promised and much-ballyhooed Crime Plan is yet to materialize and the criminals seem to be taking advantage of the absence of critical leadership, to press home their advantage.
The bigger problem here is not the immediate victims or innocent bystanders who fall prey to gunmen and their terror, there’s a much bigger problem as each new murder, further traumatizes the society, and thus represses social, business, and leisure activities. The Continuing Murder rate, and seeming impunity with which gunmen kill or maim, with no commensurate arrest and or conviction, is killing commerce. Stifling growth and retarding prospects.
So, so much for the Promised Crime Plan and Prosperity. The two primary foundations of the Holness ‘manifesto’, have proven to be nonexistent and dangerously so, as the fear now, is that the country is slipping into anarchy, and the Prime Minister and his team, are Clueless.
Pandemic, Voter Suppression Led To Outlier:
But let us take another look at the 2020 General Election: Hosted in the midst of the Covid Pandemic, which naturally depressed numbers, the JLP still funded a massive Voter-suppression campaign, that literally paid some PNP supporters to stay away from the polls; correspondingly, others were paid to go out and vote. And lest we forget, there was the crippling disunity within the PNP, that saw many of them running a counterinsurgency within the Party, to undermine its Leader and suppress their own base turnout. In fact, their campaign was so successful, that all but two of the insurgents lost their own Seats, to relative neophytes.
Now, one would have imagined that in the intervening years, Andrew Holness, would have gotten a handle on his party and infused the country with his vision and philosophy to take it to the next level. Instead, what we have had is more reports of cronyism, rampant corruption, manifest ineptitude and maladministration, and crass posturing which led to the illegal trespass on the Constitution, indicative of a headless Government, whilst more and more power and Ministries, were transferred to the hapless office of the Prime Minister.`
Along the way, the Prime Minister lost a significant chunk of his base, as now his own supporters have become some of his bitterest critics. Many now question the Prime ministerial efficacy, reasoning, and or political basis, for keeping Horace Chang, on, as Minister Of National Security. Disgruntled Labourites are now publicly saying, that the Prime Minister, his wife Juliet Holness, and Horace Chang, are the three most hated Labourites in the JLP.
They are accused of greed, and slothfulness and not people whose words are their bonds, and so the disenchantment grows daily, within the JLP ranks. As supporters complain of the favoured few, who seem to reap all and every benefit there are, whilst those who did the groundwork to get the party elected, are ignored and or spoken down to by those they worked hard to elect.
There’s talk of Prime Ministerial pomposity, Ministerial bombast, widespread corruption, and the decay of the Party’s political machinery, and a moribund Belmont Road, once the center of Gravity, for the JLP, now a ghost town, as the Prime Minister and Party Leader no longer attend central Executive meetings, leaving lesser mortals to, and those who do, lacking the razzmatazz and or political know–how, to take on board and or represent the concerns of the foot-soldiers, bloggers, and supporters in general.
Sources say the Party is probably as disorganized as it has ever been. The General Secretary is Gen Sec in name only as there’s no work being done, to facilitate the Party’s return to power; The Prime Minister has become more combative and alarmist in his pronouncements, and he and Party Chair, Robert Montaque, are barely on Speaking Terms; and Dr. Andrew Wheatley is still stewing at not being returned to the Cabinet, so maintains a studious distance from the political center.
JLP Believing Its Own Fake News.
Many say the Government seems to have taken to believing its own PR of invincibility buoyed by the Electoral seat count, and so has neglected its own, and the neglected are waiting to even the score, come the next General Election.
As it is a numbers Game, here are some seats they are suggesting will be up for grabs, come general election time…
Eastern St Thomas. They say incumbent James Robertson will not go out without a Robust fight, but his incumbency and a growing unpopular Prime Minister could cause him to go down.
Mrs AnnMarie Vaz In Eastern Portland, is considered a floozy and they say all the PNP need to take back that seat, is a strong Candidate. And furthermore, the Husband’s seat in the West is not secure either, they say.
Surprisingly, they say two seats that were considered safe, those held by Mike Henry in Clarendon and Audley Shaw, in Manchester, could end up switching hands, as these were personality-centric seats and not necessarily party seats. There’s also talk, that the seat held by relative newcomer, and future leadership prospect, Floyd Green, is also on the chopping block.
The political ground is not steady, according to analysts. Made more so, by the fact that lots of ‘young’ people maturing (politically) under the Andrew Holness-led Government, and not being impressed by his performance, to date, the new voters will make the difference and could tilt the vote in the PNP’s favour.
These are some of the other seats that pundits say the PNP could retake at the next general elections to give Mark Golding a Win.
1) Daniel Lawrence won Westmoreland Eastern by 11 votes(0.2%).
2) Phillip Henriques won Clarendon North Western by 139 votes(1.2%).
3) Donavan Williams won Kingston Central by 303 votes (3.4%).
4) Delroy Slowley won North East St Elizabeth by 493 votes(3.6%)
5) Dwight Sibblies won Clarendon Northern by 713 votes(6.2%)
6) Michelle Charles won St Thomas Eastern by 731 votes(6.4%).
7) Robert Chin won Manchester Southern by 890 votes(7%).
8)Rhoda Crawford won Manchester Central by 1151 votes(7.6%)
9)George Wright won Westmoreland Central by 1189 votes(7.6%).
10) Robert Miller won St Catherine South Eastern by 1124 votes(9%).
11) Krystal Lee won St.Ann North West by 2106 votes over PNP and 7056 votes over independent PNP (9.2%).
12) Tamika Davis won Hanover Western by 1029 votes(9.4%).
13) Morland Wilson won Western Westmoreland by 1053 votes(9.4%).
14) Tova Hamilton won Trelawny Northern by 1761 votes (11.4%).
Voter Apathy Replaced By Holness Fatigue
Many are predicting a nail-biter, but others say, the indications are to the contrary as dissatisfaction among the JLP ranks, is at an all-time high, with many saying they will sit the next one out.
The argument, is, as was demonstrated by the 2020 vote, despite its vagaries, the idea of traditional voting loyalties ‘naw keep again’, as people are no longer content to wait for their slice of the pie, as they watch their political leaders gorge themselves.
And perhaps, of equal importance, is the incumbency factor. Many pundits suggest that voters are not suffering from Voter-Apathy, but have grown tired of Andrew Holness And the JLP and are suffering from Andrew Holness Fatigue, and that is in keeping with the modus of the electorate, to vote out incumbents, rather than vote in the Opposition. The fact that voter interests as measured by pollsters, will be higher than the last turnout, should be a worrying sign for Holness and his team. This suggests a wave in the making, and in that wave, many will be swept out of office.