Tufton urges political maturity to counter voter apathy

News post November 16, 2015

 Low voter turnout cause for great concern — TuftonTUFTON… political parties unwilling to identify areas of common national interest and build on those gains regardless of which party was responsible for themOPPOSITION Senator Dr Christopher Tufton yesterday argued that growing voter apathy can be countered by a display of political maturity by politicians and suggested that any such demonstration would redound to the benefit of the country and its political parties.”Political parties have not been willing to identify areas of common national interests and accept, where necessary, that they are willing to build on those gains that have been made as a country, irrespective of if they were not the individuals or the party that was responsible for those gains,” Tufton said.”If we did, it would give Jamaicans a sense that it’s not just about partisan politics, but about what’s in the best interest of the country,” he added.Tufton was addressing a Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) divisional conference in St Andrew West Rural and framed his comments against the backdrop of general disinterest in politics by Jamaicans which, he said, will be evident in the next general election.Constitutionally, the life of the current Government expires in December 2016, however the Portia Simpson Miller-led Administration has signalled that it intends to call the general election earlier, resulting in both the ruling People’s National Party and the JLP engaging in frenzied campaign activities across the island over the past few weeks.Speculation is rife that the Government intends to seek a fresh mandate next month, but under the Westminster system, only the prime minister can name the date for elections.Since the October 1980 General Election, when the voter turnout was almost 87 per cent, Jamaicans have steadily been going to the polls in fewer numbers. For instance, in the December 2011 election, the voter turnout was 53 per cent, which was said to be the lowest in the country’s history.Yesterday, in his address, Tufton said this must be cause for concern “to all of us who may offer ourselves for elected political office, and we must ask the question why”.According to Tufton, there were several factors contributing to Jamaicans becoming increasingly turned off from politics.First is that “voters are feeling that politicians have not helped to improve the quality of their lives in their communities, as promises made and not kept over many years have placed the believability and trustworthiness of politicians at a all-time low”.The second factor, he said, was disunity and divisiveness among or between political colleagues and political parties, which “have reinforced perceptions among the public that if we can’t work together as a team, there is reason to be cynical as to whether we can work for the best interests of Jamaicans”.The third factor was the unwillingness of political parties to identify areas of common national interest and build on those gains regardless of which party was responsible for them.He urged Labourites to work hard to overcome those challenges, but pointed out that the third point requires political maturity that, “if demonstrated, would see more Jamaicans, particularly [the] middle class, engaging the political process at all levels, to the benefit of those politicians and political party that demonstrate that political maturity”.Added Tufton: “As a party we must focus on ideas rather than personalities and distinguish ourselves as better managers of the economy, but also as the party that is willing to embrace national gains from wherever its origins.”He said the JLP’s history of “great policy ideas”, and track record of implementation when in office, distinguished it from the alternative. “And so I urge Labourites to put our focus and energies there in order to encourage greater engagement from the uncommitted voting population,” he said


Published By: The Observer

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