An Election Does Not a Democracy Make

Since our September 3 elections I have heard and observed a number of operatives in civil society and the press express concerns and long lamentations on their belief that all of a sudden our democracy is in crisis. The night of the election I heard two party operatives of the PNP, two media managers and a civil society leader spell out a future which saw Jamaican democracy in dire straights. On one hand the low voter turnout meant that the government did not have a mandate because enough people did not vote. Another person remarked that Jamaican democracy was in trouble because the Jamaican populace had accepted that corruption is a feature of our democracy. The civil society leader argued that a landslide victory with the incumbent JLP was the greatest threat to Jamaican democracy.

With one election, what had before been described as a consolidated, if not quality democracy was in trouble and serious trouble at that. What then makes a democracy viable? Is it the number of persons who vote in an election? Is it the presence of political leaders who sometimes raid the public purse for their personal benefit? Is it the margin of victory in a general election?

Democracy is only democracy when we know and respect its safeguards. A democracy is not just the interplay between leaders in elected office and the citizens who support their agenda. The judiciary is an important part of a country’s democratic arrangement. The media which should seek to find the truths and represent without fear or favour and civil society in its full length and breath.

Our democracy is not at risk. The JLP’s margin of victory does not put our democracy at risk, there are enough checks and balances within our system to ensure the sanctity and protection of our democracy. We do need more Jamaicans to vote in our elections, the political parties and the Electoral Commission of Jamaica (ECJ) need to turn their attention to developing strategies for voter education towards encouraging full participation in elections. Democracy is more than elections. It is us, the people engaging our country and our collective well being. Election is how we choose leadership for our democracy. I am a firm believer in this democracy that the people of Jamaica have evolved. One election will not question its integrity.


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