Política

Editorial | Combine referendum, local government poll

EXPENSIVE BUSINESS Further, holding a national election is an expensive business. Last year, Parliament approved more than $1.8 billion for the financing of the 2020 parliamentary elections. It probably costs less for municipal elections but not substantially so. The demand now would be at a time when the national Treasury is not particularly healthy because of the COVID-19-related recession, from which the economy is still emerging

Prime Minister Andrew Holness was probably on to something about not holding municipal elections at this time. Having them would not make sense, he told his party conference at the end of last month, given Jamaica’s need to focus on managing the COVID-19 pandemic, including the virus’ likely fourth wave involving the more transmissible Omicron strain.

“It is a miserable time,” he said. “It is not the time for politics.” And he added a tongue-in-cheek political line: the vote would not make a difference since his Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) would win anyway.

Notwithstanding that he made similar statements previously, Mr Holness has not offered an iron-clad assurance that the elections won’t be held when Parliament’s one-year extension of the mandates of the local authorities expires in February. The political Opposition clearly does not take the PM at his word. They are still operating as though the vote will take place soon. In fact, even his own party appears to be hedging its bets even if its activities are not at full throttle. Mr Holness, after all, is a politician.

For people who may be inclined to insist on the principle of subsidiarity and the right of citizens in communities to democratically, via elections, choose the people who make decisions at the local level, Prime Minister Holness, in additions to the COVID-19 argument, may have a credible case to make for a delay in the local government vote beyond February. It is not the first time that local government elections, as is allowed by law, have been postponed – and for reasons far more spurious than the effects of a pandemic. For his internal critics, who may be chomping at the bit to maul a still-disarrayed Opposition, Mr Holness has the argument of needing time to repair the image of the JLP, and his administration, from the string of corruption scandals they have endured recently. The JLP would perhaps win at the poll but with an even lower voter turnout and less support than it managed in last year’s general election.

EXPENSIVE BUSINESS Further, holding a national election is an expensive business. Last year, Parliament approved more than $1.8 billion for the financing of the 2020 parliamentary elections. It probably costs less for municipal elections but not substantially so. The demand now would be at a time when the national Treasury is not particularly healthy because of the COVID-19-related recession, from which the economy is still emerging.

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