General elections aren’t due in Jamaica until the end of next year but the main opposition People’s National Party (PNP) is girding its political loins and rallying its bases in a bid to prevent the administration of Prime Minister Bruce Golding riding out one of the toughest first terms a Caribbean government has experienced in recent decades.
In the past week, the party held its 73 annual delegates conference in the city and called on none other than four-time former Prime Minister Percival J. Patterson to rally the base and perk them up for what is likely to be a protracted general elections campaign perhaps without the political violence that has characterized others in the past.
Patterson, now the special envoy of Caribbean leaders on Haiti, warned screaming supporters that the governing Jamaica Labor Party (JLP) has little else to tell Jamaicans to impress them other than it depending on the success of the all powerful Jamaican athletic team to the 2012 summer Olympics in London and plans to observe Jamaica’s 50th independence celebrations also on for next year.
“They are depending on two things next year to win the election — Independence celebrations and the Olympics. Ah not going say much now, but we will sit and discuss the party’s strategy. I don’t want to politicize sports, but we must not let anybody politicize it,” he said.
The PNP feels it has more than a fighting chance to reduce the JLP to a one term government this time around because the several scandals the JLP and Golding have been involved with in recent months, not excluding the botched extradition of former drug kingpin and inner city strongman Christopher “Dudus” Coke to the US last year, the violence that erupted when police and soldiers began to look for him, collusion by government to keep him on the island, breaches of the constitution regarding dual American citizenship and membership of parliament as well as several others involving high officials.
So elders like Patterson who is in his mid 70s now feel that the only trump cards left for the JLP is for it to ride on the nationalistic and patriotic fervor that could accrue from big wins from Jamaican idols like Usain Bolt, 2011 World 100-meter champion Yohan Blake and others like sprinter Veronica Campbell-Brown at the Olympics.
Additionally, no one is likely to quarrel with excessive spending that would be associated with celebrations marking 50 years of independence from Britain next August so the PNP thinks the JLP will likely capitalize on that to woo apathetic voters in the coming months.
“When I saw what happened in Brussels with (Usain) Bolt and (Yohan) Blake, the PNP, which has been running the curve for the last four years, is now coming into the home stretch and we going to put on the pressure, not by blocking streets or sabotaging the economy. No matter what happens at the Olympics, if them have it (election) before, we gone clear and if them have it after, we gone clear,” he said.
More than 70 people including soldiers, policemen and inner city residents died during several days of fighting in Tivoli Gardens which Christopher Coke ran with an iron fist for years before his extradition in July last year.
Tivoli ironically is the constituency of Golding of all people so he both had to please constituents by putting up a fight for Coke, appease the US and still listen to the military and police who saw his departure as the best time to move against entrench armed gangs on the island. And they have been proven to be correct as the island’s murder rate has declined dramatically ever since.