Jamaicans go to the polls on September 3, 2020, in what is expected to be a referendum on the leadership of Prime Minister Andrew Holness and the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) majority in parliament.
The JLP’s four-seat lead in Jamaica’s 63-member House of Representatives will be contested by the opposition People’s National Party (PNP), led by Peter Philips. Another party, the Jamaican Abolitionist Movement (JAM), will only compete in Westmoreland Central.
Jamaica’s representatives are elected by national and Commonwealth citizens aged 21 and above, according to a first-past-the-post rule. The party with the most representatives in the house will then be given permission to form a new government by the head of state, the crown in the United Kingdom, through its representative, the governor-general of Jamaica.
The ruling JLP and the PNP have been Jamaica’s major parties since 1944. The former was founded as a left-wing party by trade unionist, Alexander Bustamante, who had been disillusioned with the PNP in 1943.
But the JLP has been outflanked on leftism by the PNP for well over three decades. Holness, an opposition leader in 2015, called the JLP a “fiscal-conservative party”.
“We want people to be happy, and happiness comes through fulfillment and the pursuit of your dreams and goals. So that means, for us, that the environment is competitive; so we believe in competition for business. We believe in a free market as the ultimate example of competition, but we also recognize that free markets do need regulation sometimes because some markets fail in the provision of public goods,” Holness told the Jamaica Observer.
And after winning the election of 2016, Holness has ensured a Thatcherite philosophy that promises a new dawn for Jamaican, driven by private capital and strict conservative interpretation of liberty and patriotism. Holness has also maintained that Jamaica will respect its relationship with the United Kingdom with Queen Elizabeth as the constitutional head of the state of Jamaica.
But the Prime Minister’s view of today is different than what he proposed in 2016 and what the PNP demands now. PNP leader Peter Phillips has promised to hold a referendum on whether the Queen should continue as the head of state of Jamaica if the PNP forms the next government.
Phillips also insists Jamaica has to contend with foundations of inequality bequeathed by British colonization.
He promised the PNP will be committed to “[E]nding the apartheid education system by making quality education, universally affordable and accessible to every child by upgrading some schools and improving conditions for teachers.”
The party will also establish a universal health insurance scheme to “provide access to free or affordable health care through a universal health insurance scheme.”
Education, the economy and Jamaican nationalism have been put on the ballot by the two major parties. It is up to Jamaicans to vote into power their vision for their country.