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UNIMPRESSED

Pundit sees polls as a Holness-Golding showdown; only 24% of J’cans give councillors thumbs up

Published:Tuesday | February 20, 2024 | 12:13 AMEdmond Campbell/Senior Staff Reporter
Political commentator Dr Paul Ashley.
Political commentator Dr Paul Ashley.
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Political commentator Dr Paul Ashley says the February 26 local government elections will be a straight fight between Prime Minister Andrew Holness and Opposition Leader Mark Golding as the electorate has little or no knowledge of their local representatives or the work they do.

His comments come against the background of the latest RJRGLEANER Communications Group-commissioned Don Anderson polls, which reveal that 40 per cent of those eligible to vote next Monday give the municipal councillors islandwide a negative performance rating.

The polls, which were conducted between February 2 and 7, showed that 18 per cent of the electorate rate the performance of their councillors as very poor, while 22 per cent believe they were doing a poor job.

Another 36 per cent of those interviewed say the performance of their councillors was average, being neither good nor bad.

On the other hand, just 24 per cent of the electorate gave their councillors a positive rating.

“The majority of the electorate don’t know the councillors. If you never put the head and the bell beside them on the [ballot], they (electors) would not know who to vote for. The majority of the electorate don’t see their councillors,” Ashley insisted.

He argued that most councillors have been missing in action since the last local government elections were held on November 28, 2016.

ADS NOT ENCOURAGING

Ashley said that the advertisements being run by both major political parties are not encouraging electors to vote for their respective councillor candidates but for the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and the People’s National Party (PNP).

“You never see any ads saying, ‘vote for the councillor’,” he added.

“It’s two tribes, and it comes down to two individuals [going up] against each other. It comes down to two individuals: Holness vs Golding. It’s down to a referendum on two individuals,” Ashley contended.

Holness is the leader of the ruling JLP, while Golding is the president of the opposition PNP.

Anderson is also of the view that the activities in the run-up to the February 26 polls have morphed into a national campaign focusing on the political parties rather than local government issues.

“It is a referendum on the performance of the parties at this stage,” he said.

The pollster argued that the local government elections are taking place less than two years before the general election is constitutionally due.

He said this would be a gauge as to how the parties are stacking up in terms of the national polls, which is generally deemed as the more important event.

NO MANIFESTO

And Ashley reasoned that the upcoming polls were not about local issues or governance-related matters at the municipal level, noting that he had never seen a manifesto from any political parties setting out their plans for local government.

Both political parties in the local government debates last week pledged to release their manifestos ahead of the election.

“If you don’t know your councillor for seven years, you don’t want to see them now,” Ashley said.

“This local government election has been subsumed under the general election. It has no relevance to anything other than the general election,” said the political commentator.

Ashley suggested that the Government should have called both the local and general elections in one and save the country some $1.2 billion to spend on areas in critical need of resources.

The RJRGLEANER polls revealed that the electorate identified the best-performing councillors across the country. They singled out St Thomas, with 61 per cent of respondents giving them a positive rating, followed by 35 per cent for councillors in St Elizabeth, and 31 per cent for councillors in St Mary.

Municipalities where the incumbents were most negatively rated include Hanover, with six per cent, and Manchester, with 15 per cent.

With a sample size of 1,010 registered voters across 14 parishes, electors were interviewed on issues relating to their local representatives for the last seven years.

The margin of error was plus or minus three per cent at the 95 per cent confidence level.

edmond.campbell@gleanerjm.com