#COVID19Chronicles-147: September 7, 2020-Every valid vote counts

After polling day on September 3 gave us a preliminary result of JLP 49, PNP 14, in terms of seats in Parliament, the full recount started the next day. Most seats were originally decided by sizeable margins, and the recount didn’t change that or the results. But 3 constituencies had very close races, initially, and would likely end up, eventually, as magisterial recounts, being too close to call.

But, first, we have to go through the basic recounts to make preliminary results final in the books of the. Electoral Commission of Jamaica.

In St Ann South East, where ‘sweetah wid Lisa’ had turned sour and seen a 3000+ majority fizzle to 14, on Election Day, for Lisa Hanna, the recount boosted that to 32. Woohoo!

So, no blood, there, in terms of seats. For what it’s worth, my view is that such a slim showing in a previously solidly held seat doesn’t bode well for any upcoming ‘beauty contest’ for new PNP president. But, they’re a funny bunch, so one never knows.

In Westmoreland Eastern, the result on Thursday had been an 8 vote defeat for incumbent Luther Buchanan (PNP)—who’d won by over 2,500 votes in 2016—by a newcomer, Daniel Lawrence. But, after the recount, the result was A TIE! Unprecedented, it seems at national level, though not in local elections. In such situations, the returning officer (RO) has the deciding vote. Well, he wasn’t ready to cast his vote on Saturday night and decided to sleep on it, literally. Meanwhile, rumblings started and security forces were brought in to quell the tension.

The casting vote was set for 10am Sunday.

Well, in time-worn Jamaican fashion, that time came and no action. Meanwhile, minds were focused on how the RO would decide. He’d reportedly been guided on his options. The prosaic options of tossing a coin or pulling names were there, but people weighed in with ideas like a bun-eating contest. The day was gloomy, and needed some fun to break the malaise. Anyway, just after 10.30, in came all the parties and the party began and was over in no time.

Buchanan had gotten the nod, so for now is the winner by 1 vote, 4835 to 4834.

The RO had decided by picking names from a box, then appropriately marking a ballot paper for the record, and depositing it with a note (not asking to be rescued, presumably 🙂 )

Next steps include the formal filing for magisterial count. We know 100+ ballot were rejected in Westmoreland Eastern and getting any of those accepted will prove crucial. Don’t move!

For now, the overall result stands at 48:15 seats in favour of JLP.

Jamaican political rhetoric–getting warm and could get hot

I am still hopping mad about Mr. Warmington’s comments on voting. (Maybe, it’s subliminal, because some years ago, he lost an election to Dennis Jones–it wasn’t me :-))

At least, some bigger voices than mine in terms of public commentary have made it clear that this is not acceptable. Professor Trevor Munroe yesterday referred to Mr. W’s recent remarks as “political corruption”Observer columnist Mark Wignall today cites what I also find very disturbing–the tacit support given by the JLP leader, Mr. Holness, who was on the same platform as Mr. W, and said NOTHING against what he heard. We must take that as, at least, tacit approval. If so, then where do we go with that endorsement? You cannot transform what you are not prepared to change. You will be what you accept. Maybe, Mr. W. will get his wish at the next election, with a resounding rise in voting and the nice present of a lost seat.

Only 22 countries in the world have compulsory voting on their books and only 10 enforce those laws, according to information on Wikipedia. If Mr. W. wanted to argue for the improved legitimacy that would come from higher voter participation then he could have expressed himself better. Some of these countries make an exception for ‘very young’ and ‘very old’ voters. Others make exceptions for illiterate voters.

What still grieves me is the total disregard in Mr. W’s comments for those who have every right to full political representation through their participation in the financing of the State. The notion that voting confers rights to state benefits is the beginning of justification for political patronage. Some see it as more sinister because it implies perhaps the justification of party favouritism. How dare a politician think of only giving benefits to those who have cast their mark on a ballot and not think to support those who want benefits and have contributed directly to government being able to provide those benefits?

Since, starting to write this, I read that Andrew Holness has now made a comment. He is reported as having said. He signalled that the Party is not in favour of Mr. Warmington’s position: “The general secretary, I believe, responded to say that the party’s position has always been that state resources are available to all citizens, regardless of their belief and whether or not they vote, yes or no”. Well, let’s take that muted remark as distancing himself and the party from Mr. W.

Now, let’s clear up what Mr. W. means by arguing that if you do not vote you should be put in jail: “…you should lock them up if they don’t vote…”.

Mr. Warmington’s arguments are very confused, and I repeat ‘dangerous’–making it clear that he knows that those who did not vote are really below consideration and deserve condemnation: “48% sat home and didn’t vote and they have the loudest squeal and the loudest talk and everything is bad for them in government and they don’t participate in anything and those people are going to say that I must apologize?”

Let’s see if the talk is another nine-day wonder, or if something is done about something that is supposedly unacceptable.

Jamaica, where the sun sets in the east: Bitcoin, drag queens, voting rights

Jamaica showed off all of its frustrating peculiarities in the past few days.

One step forward: A company known as Kingston Open MRI was reported to have started using Bitcoin–a virtual currency–to facilitate “a cost-effective, easy method to pay” and taking advantage of free payment processing. I think an hip-hooray is in order for forward thinking, even if I have personal concerns about the long-term life of Bitcoin.

One step backward: Usain Bolt ‘stars’ in a recent commercial by Virgin Media. He portrays himself and several other characters, including a baby and a woman. Some people in Jamaica are frothing at the mouth about what he has done to mash-up the country’s image for masculinity by suggesting he’s not on the straight as an arrow line. If this is not real idiocy, then what is? The Jamaican inability to distinguish art from real life may be behind some of the more damaging foolishness that we get up to. Let me think of the many ‘stars’ who find it hasn’t hurt the semblance of their manhood by dressing in a dress: Wesley Snipes, Tyler Perry, Oliver Small, Eddie Murphy… I deliberately focused on black stars. Now, admitted these persons are called ‘actors’, so I imagine in the minds of some they are clearly acting. But an athlete doing it must be gay, right? Wrong! Take a look at the really stunning Charles Barkley. Hold back now, fellas! One of a long-line of clearly confused black, white or mulitcoloured athletes, who include known drag queens Oscar de la Hoya, Cam Newton and Leo Ferdinand.

Charles Barkley showing that he is all wo-man
Charles Barkley showing that he is all wo-man

Aieee! I guess that soon, someone will notice that Bolt dressed up as a baby and I cannot imagine what they will think he’s trying to be there.

Two steps backward: MP, Everald Warmington has not been known in recent times as a man who minces words. He is, however, someone whose words seem like they have gone through a mincer. His latest outbursts have really set tongues wagging. He said (my stresses):
“If you don’t vote; you don’t count. And at this stage if a person walk in the office and sey ‘Boss mi a Labourite’, and when I check the computer, you didn’t vote, I nah deal wid you. If you don’t vote; you don’t count and you can’t ask for Government benefits when you refuse to participate in the governance of your country.” 

I will let all the others who want to feast on the words. But, first, not voting is participating in your national governance: it can send a very clear message of the worthiness of those who have put themselves up for elected office. If I saw a dog and monkey on the ballot–and they have featured in some places–I’d hope that someone would not force me to vote for one or the other.

What is the MP doing checking the voting records to see who voted? I thought we had a secret ballot, so why would he want to violate that, if he’s so concerned about civic duty?

If an MP feels that he or she does not want to deal with those who did not cast a vote in the politician’s favor, I guess he or she has that right, but those who win ballots are supposed to address the interests of all their constituents. Yes, I know we love being partisan, and that politicians love being vindictive. Mr. Warmington went on to talk about the 48 percent (those who did not vote in the national election) in terms reminiscent of a failed US presidential candidate, Governor Romney. Very disturbing and disrespectful!

Many people will be quick to point out that even if persons did not vote, they have representation through their tax paying dollars, which so happen to pay the salary of elected officials. In case, it escaped Mr. Warmington, there is also a large part of the population who cannot vote, legally. Children and their guardians, whether they have voted, deserve the politicians’ ear.

It may happen today, but so far, Mr. Warmington’s party leader, Andrew Holness, has not voiced an opinion. Another member of the JLP, Daryl Vaz, did comment:

Vaz has argued that it is a right of Jamaicans to opt not to vote.

It is a constitutional right that they can exercise…The fact that they might not wish to exercise it because of what they perceive as the failure of politics and politicians should not disqualify persons from receiving genuine assistance.”

It’s not rocket science. But, if you are a war monger, Mr. Warmington, then I imagine none of that will strike a politician as relevant. When Jamaica has compulsory voting, I’d be happy to hear the comments made again. Till then, let those who want to vote vote; the others can do as they please and not feel they have no voice.