By R.D. Miller
Every election has consequences, and regardless of what colour one identifies with, after the paint job has been completed, the nation has to deal with it until the rust emerges again. The people will always be the body shop to select the right paint and hope the dents are fixed from years of neglects, and bumps.
Photo credit: Jamaica Gleaner
Sometimes these new or recycled paints blend and other times it fades and does not shine as expected.
On February 25, 2016, the island votes in its parliamentary election amid an ongoing troubled economy. However, despite plenty of blame to go around, Jamaica has made significant strides in its election process. Several international and local observers have responded to its positive signs.
Over the past few decades, political violence seems to be on the decline. During the 1980s, over 800 people were killed in election related crime. People are still being killed, but the numbers have reduced, and more work needs to be done given the recent news on a few new election related deaths.
One cannot run or benefit from a 21st century election with barbaric ideology.
Elections in the Caribbean, despite its beautiful colour, can be extremely dangerous when it is simply an interest for good governance and democracy that should be colourless as people try to find the best canvas to represent them.
With speculation, increased pressure, poll numbers and questions of leadership, Jamaica’s Prime Minister Simpson-Miller called early elections. The population of about three million people will put to rest for a few hours the ongoing issues of organized crime, drugs, trade, low growth and high debt or even a positive sporting event, from the coastal areas to the interior to select the right colour with even a simple hope that the average life expectancy remains at 73 as reported in Jamaica.
Although the margin of victory, whether for the Peoples National Party (PNP) or the Jamaican Labour Party (JLP), will be close, the psychology from political identity will still have discourse. Election settles debates, but that does not stop a few from seeing their party as the only good, and seeing the other side negatively.
What is uplifting is that the constitutional parliamentary democracy will remain intact this time around. Sure, you still have pockets of bad colours that have resulted in roadblocks, and other criminal elements and that can be related to political tribalism, as many scholars have noted.
However, since its independence from British rule in 1962, politics, crime, management, economic stagnation, poverty and power has always been a struggle from the ballot box to Main Street in Jamaica and other Caribbean Islands. Despite smooth transitions of power, Jamaica still struggles under the multitude of colours to find the right mixture.
This election and its bountiful colours are beyond party identity and boisterous claims of accomplishments, or the lack thereof. Quietly, it is more of a personality contest where, on one hand, current Prime Minister Simpson-Miller perhaps seems more aware of the latest dancehall moves, and opposition leader, Andrew Holness, who rose to the top after former Prime Minister Bruce Golding stepped down.
Andrew Holness, who won the delegates from Shaw, a longtime member of parliament and finance minister, has to constantly convince the public that he has put in his time, and has the right in-depth knowledge of what it takes and that he should benefit from his leadership victory.
Some are still unable to unlink him from Golding and still believe that his sudden departure was due to an internal fight, but others saw it to save himself and the party in the process from embarrassment.
Political power is seldom based on accomplishments, but time served in the Cabinet. However, one hopes the Jamaican people will look for sustainability on many fronts as it searches for the right colour to offer the highest quality of living where both the people and the currency have lost value in governance.
As this election cycle grows in Jamaica, supporters will usually show up to political rallies ether in red, green or orange, as if it is carnival season, having a good time listening to speeches, dancing for their particular party.
Sadly, these parties operate like primary colours: you cannot mix them after an election cycle, or even bring others to the canvas; thus making it difficult to govern and paint a picture for a brighter future. These election colours should be by definition where other colours derive from.
Hopefully, after this cycle, there will room for mixing to move the nation forward. If Mr. Holmes emerged as the next leader, in which I believe that he will, he has to put right people in place to move the nation forward.
This is not an opinion on election monitoring and difficulties faced stemming from influence on the electoral process. It is a hybrid of finding a solution that will uplift not only the poor, but also the middle class to continue to paint a better colour after the last ballot has been counted, the street are clear, and the markets are open again with fruits still looking for buyers.
As pundits hit the airwaves to argue about the failing economy and use ignorance as growth, there is plenty of blame to go around for people not to vote.
The question you should be asking, what will be different this time around?
Can many continue to live only on remittances from Jamaicans living abroad, which seem to be a rise?
What next will be cut from public programs, and what other fees will increase?
I hope this election will be one where people vote their own self-interest, even on a single issue. One should not be fooled by selective amnesia, and change of language to cover diminished credibility and, in the end, the ultra-rich, plutocrats get richer, and everybody else get poorer.
The question you should be asking, what will be different this time around?
This election should not be only a high visibility of colours that will fade shortly afterwards but, like others, it should be won on the right mixture for the future. Jamaica will not escape from the dark colour of current governance, and even when there are some good prints, and the paintbrush has been changed, often it too carries the stains from the past. Therefore, it becomes difficult to paint a much needed new canvas and here many still hope for the best outcome.
This election is both internal and external aftershock as poverty lingers. As these aggressive campaigns continue to seal their platforms, it will not change most recent reports that have seen a deterioration in Jamaica’s trade deficit combined with growing imports, and spending.
Fundamentally, this election will come down to what party can project itself as the best choice. As the paint dries, the quest for good governance should bring out the best in elected officials to get things done, and stop promising ideas that they knew in advance cannot be fulfilled due to other economic reasons.
Several promises have been made, from who is best to handle crime, to free education and medical care, and yet some medical centres could use an election to replace some their own leaders. This is not an indictment on one party, but put forth a solid plan that has a sharp difference from the other.
Being angry at each other does not solve anything
Jamaica must find a way to make sure these movements and organizations involve a prosperity platform build tolerance, justice and equality for as the island continues to look for the best sunshine, and give the next leader space to lead while ensuring accountability.