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Arguably, the night of Thursday, September 03rd, 2020 will be engraved in Jamaica’s political history as the largest ‘paradigm shift’ by a voting electorate from traditional partisan culture i.e. “safe seats” to an unprecedented unseating of eight (8) seasoned People’s National Party (PNP) incumbents in favor of newly-minted Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) candidates. Interestingly, on election night as sections of the island experienced a heavy downpour of rainfall, the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) “showered” Forty-Nine (49) winning candidates across the political landscape of Jamaica creating a rather lush topography.
POLITICAL GAME SET PIECE: “Popularity Pawn” vs “Knowledgeable Knight”
Comparatively speaking, the game of chess and political canvassing in Jamaica are similar in nature. These disciplines involve highly strategic, manipulative and critical thinking means of defeating your opponent in a battle of power and ultimately a “winner takes all approach”. Categorically speaking, with both major political parties operating in a wary campaigning atmosphere due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the general elections of 2020 was simply a battle of political psychology. Let me explain.
The Andrew Holness led Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) ran a political campaign based on two ideologies. (1) The “Popularity Pawn” of their leader, Prime Minister Andrew Holness aka “The Brogad phenomenon” and (2) The performance of their government over the last four (4 1/2) years. The political strategy in this approach was to resonate with the electorate the highest points of the parties achievements in infrastructure, fiscal responsibility, and other socio-economic interventions which was largely spearheaded through the initiative of Mr. Holness at the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM). Admittedly, The Zones of Special Operation (ZoSo), The State of Public Emergency (SOE), The Housing, Opportunity, Production and Employment (HOPE) programme all helped to build Mr. Holness’s popularity base, hence the use of this “popularity pawn” strategy.
On the contrary, the Dr. Peter Phillips led People’s National Party (PNP) built their campaign around a “building your Jamaica” theme, which stuck true to their democratic-socialist ideology wherein by putting the people first they concocted a ‘WEALTH’ plan as the hallmark of their campaign manifesto. Albeit that the pioneering of this strategic plan was not centered around Dr. Peter Phillips and his unpopularity at the public polls, he was posited as the man to “fix it” once again following his famed IMF 2012 deal as Minister of Finance and Public Service. The People’s National Party (PNP) were banking on the “Knowledgeable Knight” strategy of knowing what the country needed to move forward from a crisis situation.
GRAND MASTER PLAY: “Catastrophic Casualties and Wildcard Wins”
This massive vote of confidence in the Andrew Holness led Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) has left most if not all political pundits, academics, pollsters and the general public in amazement on the margin of victory. Frankly speaking, the resounding victory could be juxtaposed to a ‘Grand-Master’ in the game of Chess. The optics used by the campaign team was pure genius, master-class, effortless and most importantly produced the desired results.
Noteworthy of mentioning was the immensely shocking defeat of some of the PNP’s big wigs namely: Mr. Peter Bunting unseated by the JLP’s Ms. Rhoda Crawford in Central Manchester, Dr. Fenton Ferguson, a 6 star political general beaten soundly by Dr. Michelle Charles Freeman in St. Thomas Eastern, PNP’s Vice President Mr. Wykeham McNeill beaten by Mr. Morland Wilson in Western Westmoreland and Dr. Dayton Campbell’s defeat to Ms. Krystal Lee in St. Ann North-Western represented the “Catastrophic Casualties” from the PNP party. Consequently, once those seats were overturned by the JLP, the writing was on the wall and it represented a wipe out of the party’s “strong play pieces on the chess board”. The Knight, Bishop and rooks were all taken. Check!
However, among the surprising Wildcard Wins was the JLP’s Mr. Donovan Williams, Attorney at Law win over the PNP’s Imani Duncan-Pryce, Business woman in Central Kingston, a seat formerly held by PNP stalwart Ronnie Thwaites. Another Wildcard Win in the election would definitely be the subtle, unassuming persona of the JLP’s Ms. Tamika Davis win over the PNP’s abrasive and vocal Mr. Ian Hayles in Hanover Western. The impetus behind these resounding victories has its “genesis” in what may be consider a general departure from “die-hearted” politics of the 1980’s and 90’s to a electorate who is now awoken to the power of the democratic ballot.
The Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) has produced arguably the most emphatic victory in an unprecedented election campaign punctuated with a worldwide pandemic, looming economic uncertainty and a new generation of voting electorate. The victory also places a greater expectancy on the Prime Minister Elect to exceed the standards he set for his government, especially since the parliamentary opposition will not be at its optimal strength in the aftermath of the defeat. Finally, the 37% voter turnout of the electorate is the lowest in the country’s history since Universal Adult Suffrage in 1944, which is a solemn reminder to the JLP government that there is still a greater portion of the citizenry that still needs to connect to the governance process.