Many persons seemed more lost in the holiday merriment and making a buck or having traditional family celebrations and or were just upset that the elections were called in the period stayed away from the polls, not even the slick ad campaigns, the alleged vote buying, typical election excitement and online presence could get persons out. Some now conclude that the crowds we saw at both campaign tours on televisions and on online were persons bused in from Kingston or other parts of the island with strong support to create the illusion that there was a groundswell, why else would there have been low turn out by only core support for the PNP/JLP and an almost full ignoring of the voting process by the undecided with vexed feelings by disgruntled JLP supporters. One news review yesterday on radio suggested this as well and the gay vote was included as the LGBT community may have responded to the promise of the review of the buggery law by Sista P. The powerful religious community seems to have also stayed away from the polls whilst opposing the suggestion by Prime Minister designate Portia Simpson Miller to review the buggery law, powerful business interest also were quiet maybe expecting the continuation of the economic policies that benefited some of them, everyone seems caught by surprise on this one even the sharpest of wits on political matters Ian Boyne seemed stunned by the results.
"A dwindling electorate is dangerous"
Where only the diehard, robotic base of both parties participated in the elections and one side captures two-thirds of the seats under such an arrangement, the question must be asked, which Jamaica do the political parties represent?
Can we honestly claim any broad-based representation, or is it that the PNP represents the poor and the JLP the not-so-poor?
As I asked in a recent column, 'Will unemployment, poor roads bite the JLP?' there was always going to be a believability factor facing both parties in terms of which one the people believed would deal with that pressing matter in a more urgent time frame.
The JLP Government had been claiming 'stability' of the macro-economic picture and 'continuity' as a springboard for development. This assumption was always centred on the idea that a poor man without a steady job or, more likely, perennially unemployed, could take that home with him and cook it for dinner.
The PNP countered with JEEP, which the party now says will be instituted. I wish it luck. This proposed emergency employment plan, workable or not, has been bought into by the people.
Because the JLP could not promise anything resembling this proposed crash programme, the assumption on the part of the JLP was always that the people would understand and wait, a most foolish position to hold if the JLP MPs had been in the trenches. What has in fact transpired is that not many discriminating people believed either party so must we assume that only those who walked through the gates of the big dance and arrived early believed it?
With the PNP capturing 53 per cent of the popular vote and 65 per cent of the seats in the lowest turnout in recent memory, it means that increasingly the majority of voters are deciding to remain at home as election cycles continue. The danger of that is that as the voter turnout decreases, the party which wins theoretically only has to pander to the wishes and the desires of its immediate base.
If it takes a crash programme to satisfy that need, then so be it, but that is a dangerous downhill slide in social and economic terms and it operates against the success of any long-term development.
It appears to me that even the PNP was surprised at the win. One JLP supporter who did not vote told me Thursday night, "Last Christmas, nuh work, no money nuh run; this Christmas, same ting. Den a how dem expect fi win?"
One PNP supporter e-mailed me the following: "Well, to say I am surprised is an understatement. Not only did the PNP win, but it was, in reality, a landslide. I never imagined that at all. I can only assume that the voters were upset with the JLP regarding lack of employment, the 'Dudus' affair, the Manatt enquiry, the JDIP scandal and the unimpressive debate between Mr Holness and Mrs Simpson Miller. Surprise, surprise. It was not even close.
"My worry is that the PNP did not expect this. It is like a "buck up". I do not believe they are ready to govern and lead Jamaica to prosperity and development. I say this as a PNP supporter. But I will watch carefully and see what the PNP does." Many people expect jobs next year."
The Buggery review matter has been heating up in the religious front as well since it was postured by Sista P and as we saw on December 31st on a television program "Word Power" restorative advocate and pastor Al Miller has now joined forces with a Singaporean anti gay Christian advocate and law professor Lian Thio
who proposed among other things that laws that seek to destroy the family must be contested and not allowed to be passed, she is on the island to promote her new book "Mind The Gap" and participate in a lecture series as well on how Singapore mixes moral values and secularism in their society. She was at pains to say she does not support theocracy but as the interview progressed she kept hinting to the homosexual agenda and the need to fight it. She hinted to the gay agenda as very agnostic aggressive with secular humanism and implanting its power in political circles while slowly opposing Christianity so as to inform laws and decisions. "Unrighteous laws breeds unrighteousness and lawlessness brings judgement, all this is in the book of Ezekiel ...... when it comes to homosexuality though I oppose same sex marriage, I argued to keep anti sodomy laws on the table ..... churches must not say it is wrong but also provide a solution," she continued she believed persons can be changed. Rev Miller agreed and hinted that the buggery review would be opposed from his standpoint. Miss Chio is the current editor of the Asian yearbook of international law and formerly the Chief Editor of the Singaporean International Journal and Comparative Law while also being a formerly government representative.
Clearly persons are now waking up either from a kind of slumber or daze just realizing that review was suggested, anger was the order of the day at a barber shop I was at the other night. The news was being read on television Jamaica TVJ and the buggery issue came up again, the reactions were mixed at first but when one male barber expressed outrage at gays flaunting their stuff in public the whole air of the discussion changed with some of the same persons who were tolerant before adjusting their tone, to me that is an indication of how fragile tolerance can be and can be influenced to the negative in short order as feeling run close to the surface for many persons just by observation.
The composition of the Senate is also of concern for some as the practice when members of parliament loose a seat they are not normally sent to the senate but the outgoing JLP may not have a choice when Andrew Holness thinks how to put voices that can guide the processes seeing that in the upper house the numbers are low and certain key voices such as Christopher Tufton are gone. The wise and tolerant outgoing President of the senate Ozwald Harding who also has been one of those open voices who advocated over the years for the Buggery Law repeal is no longer in the house. Albeit the senate may only be a slowing agent for key legislation reviews but since more younger persons are now in the mix how does a leader mix experience with youth while having proper representation?
My African neighbour who I referred to in the introduction in a spirited discourse yesterday morning by my gate as I bought my newspapers asked what I thought of the results? I told him I had mixed feelings as I was still wondering why the low voter turnout, he proceeded to reiterate some of the other opinions that the JLP was taught a lesson and the PNP too that it cannot sit by and not move quickly on issues to appease the turned off undecided voters. He also mentioned the buggery review issue and said he didn't have a problem with gay persons so long as they kept it private (I suppose a jab at me since he knows of my previous run in with the law and buggery charge in 1996) he was quick to point out though that he didn't think the gay community contributed money to the campaign as is rumoured but that there are obviously gay persons in the PNP just by looking at the makeup of the cadre of persons there. He like myself is concerned about the massive 2/3rds majority she has and her hold on such awesome power to make legislative changes almost a whim with very little counter from the soon to be opposition JLP, in his strong Nigerian accent he concluded: "it can be dangerous for democracy my friend but Jamaica is a fantastic place and one never knows what to expect"
We were later joined by his University student tenant a 19 year old male who lived upstairs and another much older and experienced male neighbour two doors from me who originally hailed from Waterhouse, a former active PNP stronghold of the seventies and eighties, we recounted the previous elections and all realized that these are indeed interesting times, I was careful to infuse in the exchanges the buggery review component while not declaring my hand but they know very well that I am gay based on previous legal issues that were public except the 19 year old student tenant who is also a Christian, he just moved in some two years now, he said he was jaded by the ads especially the ones that attempted to make Mrs Simpson Miller out to be incompetent and never saw any messages that gave him hope so although he was enumerated/registered to vote he never voted he also went on to say that the buggery matter was a concern as well, the older neighbour somewhat jokingly said " ... a battyman run the werl" (gays that are running the world), an ode that also seems to be a kind of steadily growing resigning position coming from persons who once aggressively opposed any hint to homosexuality discussed publicly. This sentiment was also expressed by my own barber recently as well.
Several things confront us here friends in this time in Jamaica, the buggery issue may have also contributed to the aloofness by chiefly the undecided at the December 29th polls but it also seems to be gaining some momentum post the results, Jamaicans do not forget things easily as the other factors that went against the JLP is on the lips of the nation such as the Manatt Dudus affair, the JDIP program, the surveillance plane over Tivoli during the incursion with the subsequent denial of sorts by the outgoing National Security Minister who also lost his seat and the feeling of mistrust from former PM's Golding's departure coupled with the "Not In My Cabinet" stance that deeply offended the LGBT community. The incoming PNP also has a lot to do and its work is cut out regarding jobs, the hopelessness in the economy, the continuation of things that were functional or positive from the outgoing JLP, gone are the days when political parties running for or are in office can get comfortable and hope for second terms, the JLP is now the first one term administration and the people will put parties to pasture if they do not deliver if it means a low voter turnout, no vote is still a vote.
The gay community obviously had a hand in this time in the polls responding to the promise to review the buggery law by Sista P, it maybe the most votes ever cast by our cohort in any election ever.
Peace and tolerance
Also see: Internalized homophobia glaring since the elections …. a worrying trend