Tue | Jul 27, 2021

Letter of the Day | We need to fix Jamaica’s democracy

Published:Saturday | June 12, 2021 | 12:06 AM


Democracy in Jamaica is one in which the people elect representatives who legislate on their behalf. While the freedom exists for us to have more than two parties (and we do have more than two) – there are two main ones. Well, that is the problem, we’re not sure that there are two. Sure, there’s the ruling party and an imploding Opposition (whichever you pick).

The quality and strength of a democracy depends on having at least two strong parties, which gives the electorate a real choice. When there is only one strong party, it serves itself. Where there are two strong parties, that means the people must be courted for one of those parties to win an election. Here, there’s a greater likelihood that the people will be served. To increase the number of eligible contenders is to increase the likelihood of the people being served.

Unless you are going to be disingenuously benefitting from a ruling party, the truth is, even the supporters of a single strong party in a democracy will experience diminishing returns from that party in power. So then it really helps me to have a strong Opposition even though the party that I may favour is in power.

We only have to think about business and the horrors of a monopoly, or where there is collusion among the contending factions – and the people suffer. It is no different in a political situation. We have to be afraid of having a single sensible party, or a case where certain self-serving activities are justified by the ruling party, simply because another party, while in power, did the same thing. That is a principle of collusion at work, where there is a generally accepted subversive way of doing certain things.

We should understand the difference between the weakness in a political party, based on the preference of the electorate of another party, and the weakness that comes from contentions among factions within the party itself. The latter is a kind of systemic weakness, whereas the first one could simply be a matter of crafting the right message. Vastly different issues. In the systemic weakness, there is the need to work on those dividing party dynamics among party members before you even begin to consider how you communicate with the electorate.

It is my view that democracy in Jamaica is in dire crisis, because of a dearth of united political forces to create at least two credible political parties. Where do we go from here?

1. This is not likely to be fixed by the parties themselves; the country at large needs to have a discussion about what we want.

2. Media needs to play a major role of bringing academia, business, civic, youth and community leaders together to talk about the way forward.

3. Consider to pay politicians more and demand more accountability from them.

I am not sure how we will get beyond the kind of politics where individuals contend for positions. We cannot afford to reduce our thought of Jamaica to choosing a single political party to form the government and let all other chips fall where they may.

There is too much potential for greatness to be so regressive in our thinking. Let’s take on the challenge and move Jamaica forward.