Questions from a Dutchman
I received an interesting set of questions from a Dutch reader / journalist who is following the elections here in Jamaica from afar. I thought I'd reply publicly, just for the heck of it.
Here are the questions he sent, and here are my replies.
- Background profile: Can you tell me your name, age and profession?
- Do you follow the news about the election intensively or not? Do you think it’s important to follow the latest developments surrounding this topic? Explain.
- What are, according to the politicians, the big themes on this campaign?
- About which themes, according to the public, should politicians talk about?
- Are there clear differences between the JLP and the PNP?
- In what way is this election different from the previous one?
- How has the Jamaican population viewed these election campaigns so far?
- Does the media give an honest and objective report about the election process?
- Which things strike you the most (positive or negative) lately when it comes to Jamaican politics?
- Does the factor ‘first female PM of the Caribbean’ play an important role during these campaigns? Do they look forward or are they hesitant about it?
- PM Portia-Miller has been in office for 1,5 year. What has she achieved during her term?
- In the beginning of 2007 a Dutch company was involved in a corruption scandal that was linked with the PNP. Has that brought severe damage to Portia-Miller and her party-members?
- Due to Hurricane Dean elections have been postponed for at least a week and campaigning been put on non-active. Has this been a good or bad decision? Explain.
- How is the aid process coming along for the Dean-victims?
- Despite who wins, do you (or the Jamaican people) have any confident in the current generation of politicians who’s job is to create a prosperous,transparent and righteous society? Why so/not?
2. I follow the news closely, as do the vast majority of Jamaicans. We are highly politicised, care a great deal about political topics, and vote in high numbers. I think it's important to be engaged because it matters a lot which party is in power in so very many ways.
3. Crime, the economy/poverty, jobs, corruption
4. The same -- they are on target
5. In many ways they are close on the issues and the ideas that they have, with some differences that have longer-term consequences. In terms of leadership, there is a tremendous difference.
6. The previous election in 2002 featured Edward Seaga leading the JLP vs. PJ Patterson leading the PNP. Both have since retired, bringing in a new generation of leaders, and a new level of involvement in politics as there are strong feelings about the new leaders and what they represent, whereas the former leaders represented older ways of leading and running the country. By and large, the primary sentiment that drove voting patterns was people's antipathy against Mr. Seaga. I believe that this was the deciding factor in the three elections that they contested against each other.
7. The country just faced Hurricane Dean, and is tired of the campaign on a whole, which has gone on longer than most thought it would. Most feel that some of the advertising has been over the top, and that the campaigning is necessary, but overly reliant on mass meetings, motorcades and gifts to the party faithful
8. Yes, the media is by and large honest, although hardly aggressive enough
9. Positive -- a LOT of us care about politics and the decision that is before the nation
Negative -- our low level of education allows (forces?) politicians to be very "basic" and overly-simplistic in their appeal, speeches and style. There is an unthinking devotion to each party that is sad to see.
10. I don't think this is a factor at all
11. In the 1.5 years she has been able to give many people hope that even an ordinary Jamaican from a humble background can become Prime Minister and that the government can deeply care for people. Also, last year the economy grew slightly, and the murder rate fell.
12. It definitely has caused damage. In the televised debates a few weeks ago the Prime Minister said that she did not accept money from Trafigura, and in the next sentence she said that she ordered it returned. The whole thing gave the impression that she did not know what was going on under her nose.
13. The country is still reeling from Hurricane Dean, so there was really no choice about postponing elections by a week to allow for recovery. The new process relies on the use of electricity, and only about half the country has power at the moment.
14. It is difficult to say as information is hard to come by. It seems slower than it should be, at this point.
15. I have a certain guarded confidence in our politicians, but I think that at this point they can only play the role of spoilers. In other words, they can mess things up, but they cannot make things much better operating on their own. I think their power is terribly overrated, and that they need to step out of their fraternal/maternal roles in order to provide the deft touch that the country needs to move forward. It's time the Jamaican people stopped relying on them for more than the basics, and blaming them for what they cannot control or powerfully influence.