Tue | Aug 11, 2020

Phillips backs 2-in-1 election - PNP president says he’ll consult with party membership

Published:Tuesday | June 9, 2020 | 12:25 AMRomario Scott/Gleaner Writer

PEOPLE’S NATIONAL Party (PNP) President Dr Peter Phillips has endorsed the holding of general and local government elections on the same ballot, a proposal that would cause a seismic shift to the process of voting in Jamaica since universal adult suffrage in nearly 80 years.

The idea has stoked debate in political circles because it has been advanced as economically prudent and could potentially bump up participation in the municipal polls, which usually have lower turnouts than general elections.

Though Phillips is welcoming discussion on the issue, he said yesterday that he was inclined to support the suggestion.

“It is something that we think, on the face of, it needs exploration, and I certainly have a positive orientation towards it, but we need to examine it some more,” Phillips said as he stressed the need for consultation among the ranks of the PNP.

“It is one of the issues that our candidates, as well as our councillors and others, need to share their views on.”

Asked by The Gleaner whether he would be willing to take the suggestion to the National Executive Council (NEC), the highest decision-making body of the PNP outside of its conference, Phillips said yes.

“We’ll consider it today (Monday)! I mean, there are many other groups, not all of them are NEC members … yes!” Phillips said in reference to a late-afternoon meeting at The Mico University College yesterday.

He made the remarks during a school tour in his St Andrew East Central constituency where he visited Tarrant High and Norman Manley High.

Howard Mitchell, chairman of the corruption watchdog, the Jamaica Accountability Meter Portal, and immediate past president of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica, told The Sunday Gleaner that the country should have long ago been conducting both elections at the same time.

EOJ can handle both

Director of Elections Glasspole Brown said that the Electoral Office of Jamaica (EOJ) has the capability and competence to handle both polls simultaneously, provided that it is given adequate notice.

The EOJ boss said that no legislative changes would be needed and no additional resources either.

“We would not need additional ballot boxes. If they choose one election and separate ballots, it would require additional ballot boxes that would make it easier for counting. It all depends on the process,” he said.

The EOJ has requested $2.4 billion for the holding of elections.

The argument for the staging of two elections on the same ballot comes amid the relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions implemented to contain the disease. Analysts believe that the ruling Jamaica Labour Party may be getting ready for a general election.

Still, the final decision rests with the prime minister, who has said that he will not call an election during the pandemic.

The final publication of the voters’ list, which was due on May 31, was also affected by the COVID-19 outbreak, pushing the date back to July 31.

Phillips, who has been diagnosed with Stage Three cancer of the colon, declared that his surgery was successful and that he has undergone full treatment.

“I am healed. I have no cancer in the body. ... I am fitter today than I was before,” Phillips has said.

romario.scott@gleanerjm.com