Post Mortem: Vaz Victory No Sign of Contentment

So, the by-election in West Portland has come and gone and Daryl Vaz of the JLP has once again, this time as an unquestioned Jamaican, emerged victorious versus Kenneth Rowe, a one-time JLP2K member who switched parties. Both the JLP and PNP poured major resources into this contest hoping that their man would emerge victorious.

According to a number of polls and pundits, this election was going to be closer than the end results indicated although Vaz claimed that his polling indicated otherwise. As it turned out, Vaz and his polling apparatus apparently knew something that the other pollsters and pundits did not know and he looks like a genius and those other folks like jenny asses.

A question that now arises from this by-election result in West Portland is: what does it tell us about where things currently stand in Jamaica, if this constituency can be viewed as a microcosm of the Jamaican body politic? There are some preliminary answers.

What one could draw from this election and its results is that the majority of folks in Western Portland feel very comfortable having Daryl Vaz represent their interests in the government. Another is that these folks are politically more savvy and sophisticated than they might be given credit for. They realize that while things are not as great as they could be, they believe that the government is doing the best it can under the current circumstances and they are prepared to give it the benefit of the doubt. Does this mean that the JLP-led government should see this as some vindication of the way they’re doing business? In a word, ‘No!’ Assuming that there were to be by-elections in the constituencies held by the other three JLP members with dual citizenships and the results were to turn out in the JLP’s favour, one might be more inclined to believe that the JLP’s woes, at least regarding their candidates, might not be as bad as one might be led to believe.

This should not be construed to mean that the JLP should think it’s on easy street as nothing could be farther from the truth. There have been any number of calls for this government to level with the populace about the true state of affairs but those calls seem to be falling on deaf ears. It’s fine for the PM to speak before a professional setting (read: business folks) and tell them the truth but how about doing so before the nation. Acting in a professional manner and with a sense of urgency would seem to be alien concepts to this government and even to its predecessor.

There is no crime bill; Air Jamaica and the Sugar Corporation of Jamaica – both money pits – are still on the government books; and the Charter of Rights, well, who knows when it will be. Crime, corruption and cronyism are still pestilences upon the land that the government has seemed reluctant to vigorously attack. Those most affected by them are the average folks just trying to get by. As has been mentioned in the past, there is that feeling that Bruce Golding has to be prodded to act rather than taking the initiative and/or being proactive. This does not bode well for his legacy.

As for the PNP, well what’s to really say? Portia Simpson-Miller went to Western Portland to campaign for Kenneth Rowe and Daryl Vaz won by an even bigger margin than when he ran against Abe Dabdoub in 2007. Thus far under her leadership, the PNP has been 0-3 in elections: lost the 2007 general and parish council elections and now this by-election. Assuming that the other three JLP candidates with dual-citizenship issues were to win their by-elections – a distinct possibility – the PNP would be 0-6 in elections in the Portia era and one would have to wonder if there would not be restlessness and rumblings in the party ranks about finding a new leader. Would Peter Phillips think about another run at the PNP leadership or will he decide after two tries it would be best if someone else were to take a shot at being the party’s top dog.

I’m inclined to believe that if/when there are other by-elections and the PNP were to not fare well that someone within the PNP would start putting out feelers to see who should replace Portia. I don’t have any inside knowledge of who would/could possibly replace Portia, if such a scenario was to happen, but Peter Bunting might not be a bad candidate. He’s a successful businessman and politician and yet he seems to relate well to folks who span the spectrum in terms of profession and class. When was the last time anyone could say that about a leader of the PNP?

In the end, this just-concluded by-election went the JLP’s way but it’s high time this dual citizenship issue is seriously and objectively addressed. At a time when Jamaica has more pressing problems to address, the question of one’s patriotism/allegiance/citizenship should not be commanding too much of the nation’s time and resources. The fact that it is would seem to indicate that the nation’s priorities are not in the correct order. Perhaps if the elected representatives and leaders would demonstrate more maturity and true leadership then Jamaica’s prospects would be much brighter and better. We can all only hope this will be.

     

5 comments on “Post Mortem: Vaz Victory No Sign of Contentment
  1. As in my comments on the “Why the PNP Can and Will Win West Portland” article, great care must be made in interpreting the result of pre-election polls and election results with respect to by-elections. I will again post my key comment which stated that

    “The writer makes a gross error by presenting poll data on general elections… Such an approach generally fails as even though a constituency may not be happy with national policy and/or trends, they may be content with local representation… if this were a general election, there is a possibility that the PNP through Rowe… could upset Vaz… but as this is a by-election the recently elected MP has the advantage – [termed] the incumbent effect.”

    While a by-election can be an indicator for a general election, because this one occurred near the midpoint of a full term, forecasting the next general election results at this time would be in error. By-elections are normally driven by the local electorate’s perception of their candidates, and not on a party’s national status, even though the winning party would claim otherwise. However, I will agree that the Opposition leader does not exhibit a strong “coat tail” effect as opposed to the PM’s.

    Despite this, I would not count out the Opposition Leader or the PNP as yet. Charts 1-3 in the article I commented on, do indicate that if a general election was called around the midpoint, the JLP will have to work hard to maintain its slim majority.

    In the construction of the US Constitution, the framers did recognize the need for stable top leadership by setting a fixed term (4 years) and date for election, but they balanced that need with the greater need for representatives to be responsive to their constituency’s needs by staggering the membership in Congress (Parliament) such that there is a turn over of about half the membership every 2 years.

    Another common error is trying to forecast general election results based on local government election results. Again, it could be an indicator, but the issues at the community level are not necessarily the same as those at the national level, much less regional level. Politicizing what should be a PROFESSIONAL domain, as you and I have previously corresponded on, can lead to negative unintended effects.

    There is no PNP, JLP, et al, way to clean the streets – it is either done well or not. Hence, Mayor McKenzie may hold his position for a long time regardless of what party wins the national election. Perceptions of his professional performance are all that matters.

    As stated before, the key achievement in this dual-citizenship debacle is the JA Supreme Court affirming the right of the Jamaican people, to choose their own leaders rather than regress to Cromwell’s rule by parliament – an electocracy as I defined it. Power must be derived from the people rather than imposed upon the people by oligarchs.

    Give Us Vision Lest We Perish,

    Richard G. Williams

  2. Thanks, Richard. I’m not counting out the Opposition Leader but it is not unreasonable, in my opinion, to speculate on just what might be going through the minds of some comrades at this point. While Portia’s leadership might inspire confidence, can/will anyone say that there isn’t a bit more doubt about her (leadership) now.

    It’s no secret that the PNP is now going through what the GOP is in the US. It’s currently bereft of ideas to better Jamaica and the agents and practitioners of corruption are still in its midst. Like you, Richard, I do believe that this JLP-led gov’t would find it difficult to win if a general election were to be held today but it does illustrate a point I’ve made in the past: both Bruce and Portia came of age at a time when political tribalism was the name of the game. They still think in that mindset and Jamaica’s no better off for it.
    As for the US system of government, the Senate is where you have staggered terms and the House reps can be replaced en masse every two years. However, we know the power of incumbency and, with the type of election laws here in the US, you don’t lose your seat unless you do something criminal, outrageously crazy or if you decide to retire.

    Finally, as to the dual citizenship issue, I would suggest you read what Frank Phipps, QC, said about it (look back at last Sunday’s Gleaner or Observer).

  3. Thanks Trevor – Phipps’ letter was published on Saturday, March 21 in the Gleaner. Please do not think me disrespectful of the QC’s awesome service to JA when I say he represents archaic, dysfunctional, and old school thinking. His letter did not contribute anything new that you, I, and others have dared to examine and/or challenge. My intent is to free the fused JA minds in the dual nationality and other debates by presenting the editors, commentators, and readers with different perspectives. In doing so, we will be able to critically examine the real issues, jettison principles and policies that actually do more harm than good, and positively improve our challenged but beloved nation.

    I firmly hold that a runoff election for the two candidates that received the most votes towards party Presidency should have been mandated as Portia did not win a majority of all votes (over half, 50% + 1 vote) when she was deemed the winner – the PNP needs to end plurality voting unless to fill an array of positions. The result was that the best and brightest who were the architects of national reforms and their party’s success were rejected due to regression back to a childhood dependency on a mother figure.

    That is now history and Portia has time to improve her leadership before the next general election. Both she and Bruce are still in their honeymoon period so I hesitate to comment on their progress at this time.

    Incumbency or longevity in Congress-Parliament has positive benefits especially when the representatives are responsive to their constituencies. In this regard, term limits would hinder their role and continuity of productive programs. A Mayor Charlton of Mandeville could not have made great strides in his constituency if he were term limited. The other very important thing to remember in the US is the right of the people to Initiative, Recall, and Referendum. In Recall, representatives who do not perform as expected can be removed by the voters, upon an appropriate petition, at anytime!

    Going back to Phipps’ letter; it is utterly wrong to deny or diminish any rights of a citizen of JA except in the case of treason or those serving time for a crime. Vaz was “born yah”, “lived Yah”, and “served Yah.” It is also totally ridiculous for any Commonwealth citizen who has little connection to JA to be deemed eligible to sit in Parliament over a natural or declared Jamaican. We need to examine why the constitutional articles and subsequent rules were constructed and develop universally clear ones that do not hinder, diminish, or reject the “natural” rights of Jamaicans, on the island or abroad.

    Give Us Vision Lest We Perish,

    Richard G. Williams

  4. Richard, if you read Frank Phipps’ letter, he, more or less, echoed your point of not diminishing the rights of Jamaicans, whether residing in and/or out of Ja. to serve in government, except as PM.

    As for Portia and Bruge, they have been major players on the Jamaican political scene for a long time now. When Michael Manley resigned his position as PNP leader (and as PM) in the early 90s, Portia offered herself as his replacement but the delegates chose P.J. Patterson instead. Most rank-and-file PNP supporters were hoping that Portia would have succeeded Mr. Manley but she’d have to wait until 2006.

    Bruce became JLP leader because folks in that party had grown tired and weary of Eddie Seaga. Further, Bruce had exiled himself from the JLP when it seemed he would never be its leader and only agreed to come back if he were to become its leader.

    Bottom line: neither Portia nor Bruce are political neophytes and I have no problem commenting on their leadership styles. Both had and have a chance to put their stamp on the PNP and JLP earlier into their reign and squandered it. These folks knew what they wanted and were getting into when they took over their respective political parties and no one should be offering up excuses for them.

  5. Trevor, you cannot say in one instance that you will not diminish citizens’ right to serve then diminish that right in another instance based on dual nationality, when all Jamaicans are eligible dual nationals from birth. This sets a stage for first class, second class, and third class citizens, that JA has never accepted. I could understand that a President in a republic should be a natural born citizen, but a PM is an equal among other MPs. Therefore, Phipps’ reasoning is jaded as he attempts to mimic the US presidency eligibility requirements that pertain to a republic, which JA does not have.

    The real bottom line is that Vaz is a natural born Jamaican and only he can revoke his citizenship; not the government or the courts. Therefore, Dabdoub’s petition should not have been accepted by courts, in my lay opinion. As it was, the appropriate action by the courts was a Judicial Review of the rules that claimed Vaz could not be an MP in sharp contradiction to his natural citizen right to vote and participate in the government of his nation as furthered by his being declared eligible to run for office. There must be a clear logical flow or nexus between the related provisions to avoid contradictions.

    Bruce and Portia have served JA for a very long time, but this is their first time as head of their parties. Therefore, it will take some time for them to establish their role as chief, build a power base, and develop a single party voice. Bruce has an advantage over Portia having formed and led the NDM. However, Portia successfully fought off a leadership challenge during her first term as chief. Both are filling power vacuums left by the recent departure of Seaga and Patterson, thus, it is too early to access their leadership.

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