General and local government elections are looming in Jamaica but no dates have been set as yet. The rumour mill has it that the general election will be held in August.
But there have been discussions on whether to hold both elections on the same day which according to election officials could save the Jamaican tax payers approximately $JM 750 million ($US 530k). The government has set aside $JM 2.4 billion ($US 17m) for both elections.
I doubt such cost saving measures would increase the voter turn out as most Jamaicans have grown uninspired by the leadership of the 2 main political parties that has run Jamaica since 1944.
In the 2016 general election, just 47% of the electorate voted and a miserly 30% in the local government election a few months later. In the latter election one division had a voter turnout of just 16%.
PNP Opposition Leader, Dr Peter Phillips has tentatively voiced his support for the same day election suggestion.
I feel the dates for the general and local govt elections should be kept apart. What the political officials should be doing is coming up with initiatives to generate greater voter participation at the ballot box. One possible measure could be to introduce referendums on national and local issues and tie with both elections.
So the electorate could have a say in referendums on issues such as
- Term limits for elected officials at the national and local level.
- Term limits for elected heads of government
- Elections for the Upper House (senators)
- Move from first past the post elections to proportional representation.
- New national heroes
- Membership of the Commonwealth/Jamaica becoming a republic
- Public disclosure of political donations
- Names on bank notes
- Revoking the buggery law
- Same sex marriage
- Making the assets/liabilities/expenses of parliamentarians public
- Fixed election dates
- Elections to regional crime, health and education boards
- More Mayors for the larger non-capital towns
- Election of police commissioner and Director of Public Prosecutor.
We have seen where referendums have ignited interest and passion on local issues in other countries.
The Jamaican electorate has seen how slow their govts have been in not fulfilling their manifesto. But the electorate has also witnessed how their parliamentarians have used their authority to reward their own at the expense of more worthy and noble Jamaicans.
Just imagine the kerfuffle if same sex-marriage or new national hero nominations were up for a referendum and attached to local government election ballot papers?
Something to ponder.