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Elections in Jamaica – some revelance to SVG

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Fri, Jan 13. 2012

Editor: The Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines has congratulated Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller and her People’s National Party (PNP), the ULP’s fraternal party, on their recent landslide electoral triumph, forty-two seats to twenty, in Jamaica.{{more}}

This massive victory was not predicted by the pollsters, the overwhelming number of columnists, editorial writers, talk-show hosts, and bloggers.

By far, the bulk of them forecasted a race “too close to call” or a comfortable victory for the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP).

Interestingly, the focus of the JLP’s campaign was two-fold: (1) Demonise Portia Simpson-Miller as ignorant, incompetent, and lacking in any capacity to manage Jamaica; and (2) Extol the JLP as the only responsible party when it comes to the matter of “fiscal management”.

The JLP’s campaign back-fired badly; ordinary Jamaica felt insulted by the demonisation of “Sister Portia” in very much the same way that Vincentians have rejected, and still reject, the 14-year demonisation of “Comrade Ralph” (1998 to 2012, and continuing) by the NDP. The love that people justifiably have for Portia and Ralph cannot easily be displaced by lying propaganda and demonisation.

Secondly, the JLP’s and the NDP’s obsession with the narrow “fiscal issues”, IMF-style, without regard to the development of the whole people and the economy ignores people’s appreciation of the complex inter-relationship between “the fiscal” and “developmental” matters. People know instinctively that fiscal austerity makes no sense; as Ralph says, it has to be “prudence and enterprise”. The people accept this.

Interestingly, a JLP candidate, Joan Gordorn-Webley, who had in the past been an activist organizer and adviser to the NDP and who is a divisive, no-holds-barred politician of the variety which populates the NDP, was defeated by a young, dreadlocked, UWI graduate, Damion Crawford, in the St. Andrew Rural East constituency. Damion, a first-timer at the polls, kept his campaign lively, unifying, and issues-focussed; the voters call him “the people’s gladiator”.

In a vain quest for a possible victory, the JLP decided to accept Bruce Golding’s resignation as Leader and embrace the 39-year-old Andrew Holness as successor. “Prince Andrew” as he was dubbed, lasted not even three months, then was booted out. In St. Vincent and the Grenadines, the NDP in 2000 accepted the 55-year-old Arnhim Eustace, the darling of the self-proclaimed moneyed and backward-looking elites, lost five months later at the polls in early 2001. He again lost in 2005 and 2010. He is now a 67-year-old who wants yet another chance to satisfy the moneyed class and reactionary elites who finance the demonisation of Ralph, the self-defeating narrow “fiscal” stance of austerity, and the consequential damning of the poor and the nation.

Elections across the region do provide interesting lessons for us in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Will the NDP learn from the fates of the JLP in Jamaica, and the United Workers’ Party of St. Lucia (the NDP’s sister parties)? I doubt! Surely, they show no signs of learning. By the way, have the anti-Ralph columnists, radio commentators and bloggers learnt any lessons, too?

Hans King

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