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Op-Ed: Jamaica’s Election Paradoxes

January 6, 2012 | 10:28 am | Print

By Patrick A Gallimore
Op-Ed Contributor

The recently concluded general election in Jamaica was filled with a few glaring paradoxes. There was low voter turnout on election day, yet, the incumbent Jamaica Labour Party government administration was vigorously voted out, which broke the “every Jamaican government gets at least two terms in office” and “a low voter turnout means the incumbent administration will remain in office” rules.

Former Prime Minister and Bruce Golding successor, Andrew Holness, in addition to being the youngest person ever to become a prime minister of Jamaica, now holds the unenviable record of being the shortest-serving prime minister in Jamaica’s history.

But back to the paradoxes. The large crowds at the numerous People’s National Party and Jamaica Labour Party rallies, which were held across the length and breadth of Jamaica in the run-up to the general election, did not in any way, shape or form reflect the low voter turnout on election day, the second-lowest voter turnout in Jamaica’s history.

Three of Jamaica’s leading pollsters – Don Anderson, Bill Johnson and Dr Ian Boxill – all agreed that the election results would have been close, based upon data gathered from the numerous polls conducted by each pollster. All three pollsters turned out to be overwhelmingly wrong in this regard.

Were they really wrong though? On paper, as far as I’m concerned, all three pollsters got it right. However, in reality, this did not pan out on election day because the PNP ensured that as many of their supporters as possible got out to vote at polling stations all across the island.

No poll conducted could have picked up on this kind of activity and organization. Polls determine how people are thinking at a particular point in time about a political party and the leader of that party, not about how many people will actually go out to vote on election day. What was made clear on election day, after the ballot results began to roll in, is that the PNP outsmarted, out-strategized and out-organized the JLP, where getting their supporters out to vote was concerned. Had the JLP followed suit, the election results would have been much closer.

The outcome of the 2012 general election in Jamaica was shocking for many, including myself, because the polls and pollsters had prepared us mentally for a close election result. However, the results that emerged on election night were anything but.

The victory of the PNP over the JLP was of Titanic, or, if you prefer, Tysonesque proportions.

It reminded me in many ways of the 1986 fight between former heavyweight boxing champions Mike Tyson and Jamaican-born Trevor Berbick. In the first round of that fight, Tyson threw punch after punch at Berbick, who was barely able to hold his own. In the second round, Tyson came out blazing and knocked Berbick out in the first few seconds of the round, but Berbick quickly got back on his feet and continued to fight. As the clocked ticked, Tyson delivered blow after blustering blow on Berbick, resulting in a knockout. Berbick, though he tried to get back on his feet, was left in a stupified daze. The referee interjected and ended the fight, leaving Tyson to triumph in all his glory.

After the ballot results rolled out in many of the sixty-three seats being contested on election night, JLP candidates got the whopping of their life from their PNP opponents. Some incumbents, including a few JLP stalwarts, lost their seats in this epic battle.

In the closing round, the PNP were crowned the heavyweight champions in Jamaica’s political arena, amassing a mind-boggling 41 seats to the JLP’s mind-numbing 22. A few days later, the PNP gained another seat after a recount of the South West St Elizabeth ballots was done. The new and current result is 42/21, meaning the PNP have a two-thirds majority in parliament, enough to change or modify any deeply entrenched law in the Jamaican Constitution.

The JLP has, overnight, moved from a party in power to a party in pain. As to whether or not this defeat was deserved, I will leave that for political historians to ponder.   

Note: the opinions expressed in Caribbean Journal op-eds are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Caribbean Journal.

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