(Edited from my Letter of the Day – Jamaica Gleaner, Tuesday December 8th, 2009. http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20091208/letters/letters1.html)
The announcement by the Electoral Office of Jamaica/Electoral Commission of Jamaica (EOJ/ECJ) back in 2009 of an increase in the number of constituencies from 60 to 63 has revealed that there is something fundamentally wrong with the Jamaican electoral system.
The EOJ/ECJ has declared that this was done to prevent the possibility of a “tie” in a general election, with an even number of seats (30-30) being won by either of the two major political parties. This argument appears quite weak. Why not 61 or 59 seats?
Were we determining from then, that forever more, at no time in Jamaica’s future will we ever have another party or person of sufficient substance to wrestle not a single constituency seat from either the Jamaica Labour Party or the People’s National Party? The inefficient and corrupt style of their collective governance for the past 47 years up to that point, did not (and still does not) give me confidence that this will never happen. What happens in the future event of a sitting MP becoming disgruntled and deciding to become an independent? What then? Will this not again create an even number of seats for the two major parties, and the set-up for a possible tie again?
Jamaica is a country with very limited funds (meaning none) in the public purse, which continues to dwindle. By the addition of those three constituencies, more money was spent on general-election expenditure. With more MPs, there are now more salaries to be paid to them and their staff, as well as for the disbursement of additional monies through the Constituency Development Fund.
Constituency population density was another reason being posited for the increase in seats. This rational was also flawed, where we can only have a certain maximum of the electorate having representation in a given area. Given the tribal/garrison nature of our political culture, the continuing increase in the number of seats can only occur outside Kingston and St Andrew. Ronnie Thwaites ensured this would not happen with the furore he created on the suggestion that Central Kingston be one of the constituencies considered for a split earlier in 2009…. How dare they think to split these volatile communities! Furthermore, had Jamaica not had constant net emigration over the past five decades, what would our population be today? Five million maybe? How many more seats would we have had to create by now? I shudder at the thought!
If anything, EOJ/ECJ should have made bold steps towards having fewer constituencies, and made it an odd number to appease all those who are concerned about a possible tie.
– KAVON FIENNES