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Continuing elections review

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Now that the election appears to be over, pending some uncertainty about North Leeward, which can at most only change the composition of parliament, not who holds the reins of power, we need to look at a number of things. First, why is there no talk about having an Independent Electoral Commission. I am not sure about the extent and nature of the constitutional change that this requires. I was looking at the composition of the Jamaican Electoral Commission. It consists of 4 nominated Commissioners, 2 on the advice of the Prime Minister and 2 on the advice of the Leader of the Opposition. Then 4 are selected jointly after being agreed upon by the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition. The 8 Commissioners nominate the Director of Elections and the Commissioners nominate one of their members to be Chairman. The Commission is appointed for a period of time. This on the face of it paves the way for transparency of the election process. Are we willing to move in this direction and make the process transparent?

Then there is the question of the Voters list. I am interested in knowing the turn out at the polls and the number of registered voters who exercised their franchise. It is difficult to do so since the list of registered voters is clearly inflated, not only by dead voters still on the list, but by persons out of the country who probably had no intention of coming back to vote. To use them to arrive at an estimate of the number of persons who voted distorts reality. The Representation of the Peoples Act stipulates that individuals who have been out of the state for a period exceeding 5 years should have their registration revoked. I am not sure how closely monitored this is. When one looks at the number on the list, even considering those in the diaspora, the list appears out of sync, especially when one looks at the numbers under 18 years.

I had mentioned before a suggestion made to me by a friend which appears to be an excellent way of cleaning up the list. His suggestion was that we start with the current list of persons who voted. Use that as the official list and remove all who did not vote. They then have a period within the next 5 years to be reregistered. This takes care too of the deceased persons for it will be something if any of them turned up to be re-registered. The continuing removal of dead persons should be carefully monitored. Communication between the Registry and the Electoral Office must be constantly at play. Then there is that period of special registration after the election date is announced. This has drawn comment from past Supervisors and Election Monitors. That period makes absolutely no sense since there is election registration all year round. All it does is to give room to the unscrupulous.

 Have we come to accept the existence of bribery, for there is little doubt that it exists. There is too much political gamesmanship at play. This has to be rooted out but can best be done by an alert populace. The Prime Minister’s comments about who did not vote for him makes a mockery of our electoral process. First the workers at the polling booth will not know how individuals voted, but if they did, they must have a phenomenal memory to be able to remember them. In any event let us exercise political maturity. It is peoples’ right to vote for a candidate of their choice. A vote in any event should not relate to favours, which in any event is a bad word, because a government has to do what it is put there to do. It is not administering any special favours. There is much to be done to have a truly democratic society, not the fake one that exists.

Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian

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