E is for Elections


One of only a handful of election posters during the February 2016 election.

It was interesting to me when we first arrived in Jamaica in 2015 that there would soon be a general election. We arrived to a similar situation in Nepal in 2013, but the circumstances were a lot different. In Nepal, free elections were almost a brand new concept and the country was still struggling to stop tire-burning demonstrations,molotov cocktails being lobbed on street corners and spontaneous rioting.  Efforts were underway to prevent illegal voting and the city was transformed into a ghost town on election day, with all moving vehicles (except for official vehicles) banned from the street.  Voters had to walk to polling stations in an effort to prevent bussing.

Here in Jamaica they have their own  history of election violence, but in recent years it has been much less prelevant. Part of the tactics used to prevent election unrest includes control on the display of party materials, which was explained to me when I asked why there were so few political posters around.  Instead of the usual visual blast spread all over a city during elections, Kingston only displayed a modest few.  Close to the election date, we did see bus loads of orange-clad (PNP) and green-clad (JLP) supporters  – the two main parties — as they headed off to rallys, and we watched their orange and green litter blowing down Hope Road on the days leading up to the vote.  On 26th February 2016, Andrew Holness of the JLP was elected Prime Minister with very little civil unrest, and the Jamaican world moved on.

These experiences bring me to the US election, with primaries starting just as the Jamaican election finished.  I feel that my whole time here has been one long — one very long — election season.  Most Jamaicans that I know have access to cable TV with CNN and BBC coverage of what has been going on in US politics and are remarkably informed on the issues as well as the latest scandalous outburst.  In fact, its kind of shocking how closely they follow — its clear that they are not listening to only one media source — and know the ins and outs of each new shenanigan.   There’s an overwhelming disbelief that US politics could be going so badly and that rules, precedents and established norms are being so openly flouted.  I wonder how they feel about what they see in contrast with Jamaican corruption and I can only feel deeply embarrassed from where I stand, which appears to be somewhere in the first twenty minutes of a disaster movie.

I only feel more disheartened for my dear Filipino friends and what it must be like to live in a country that now openly murders people in the street, just a few short years since I lived there.  Democracy is never to be taken for granted.


5 thoughts on “E is for Elections

  1. We have come a long way with elections in Jamaica. As you know, politics is always a source of huge excitement, but in terms of the administration it has jumped light years ahead compared to 20 or 30 years ago. I know this from my experience as a local observer at several elections in the past. Nevertheless, the corruption and “tribalism” associated with partisan politics is a lingering problem. It’s interesting to compare different countries, though. As for the U.S. Elections… I would rather not comment on the result, but share the feelings of 90 per cent of Jamaicans!


  2. Reblogged this on Petchary's Blog and commented:
    Here’s a post in the “A to Z Challenge” from my friend and fellow blogger, whom I met online (thank you, WordPress!) when she was still living in Nepal, but who quite coincidentally moved to Jamaica. We meet up for a Japanese “bento” every now and then. Here are her thoughts on elections, in Jamaica and other countries where she has lived…


  3. Born in the GDR I agree, that “Democracy is never to be taken for granted.”
    Regarding the interest of Jamaicans in the US elections, the reason may be that each family has someone who lives in the USA and works to support the family in Jamaica. So the elections in the US also affect most Jamaicans. Regarding the behavior of the new US president, many Jamaicans who have a double residence in the States are now withdrawing from there.

    PS: I wonder what happens to the American economy when only people with an American passport can live and work there …


    • You are very correct that there are so many family connections with the US, and I’m sure that is a large part of the motivation to keep up with US politics. However, their interest far exceeds the average American’s, which is a shame as if they paid more attention we might not be in the mess we are in now.


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