THE EDITOR, Madam:
“The first third party in 1944, when we had the first general elections under the new Constitution, the Jamaican Democratic Party, was really a party of businessmen who had no attraction to either the PNP (Parti People’s National Party) nor for the JLP (Jamaican Labor Party),” political historian Troy Caine said in 2011.
The role of a third party has always been to offer an alternative to the major political parties on the island. This role of the third party has been welcomed by political commentators and the average voter. There were victories for independent candidates, but no candidates from third political parties.
In Jamaica, third parties have always been popular, conceptually. However, the National Democratic Movement (NDM) has yet to win a seat convincingly. For example, in the October 2002 elections, the NDM won no seats. More recently, the United Independent Congress (UIC), having met the requirements of the Representation of the People Act, was certified by the Jamaica Electoral Commission as the third registered political party.
So the question is who determines when a third party has lost its usefulness and is a third party useful in the first place? Not to take any risks, but one could very well argue that the UIC has since eclipsed the NDM in terms of notoriety and importance. Or did nothing really happen apart from the optics? Is there anything more sinister at hand?
The irony of all the media coverage of UIC is in the definition of a third party, that it fails to outperform either of its two strongest rivals. One could conclude that the journey of third parties all ends in failure – for lack of interest or funding.
The UIC has yet to face the electorate. However, it seems that if it even has JLP support like NDM, the results will be about the same. Although there are arguments that a viable political third party is needed in Jamaica. It has been argued that funding invested in a third party would be a waste; and if you consider the definition and function of a third party, you will see for yourself that lack of funding and lack of interest are third party grinders.
One author, who proposed the usefulness of the third party, asserted that the public must be stressed to the point that they understand that the goal is not to try to win state power. It struck me as just opposition for opposition’s sake, without any ambition.
Based on this, to the untrained eye, it may seem that the third party is only there to obfuscate the issues and generally split the votes. The reason this is an easy assumption is that the third party has literally no experience running the country as an organized unit, and the third party has not contributed significantly at the national level.
No hospital was built by a third party, no clinic, no police station. No fire stations, no new roads, no scholarships; just vibrations. Worse still, actions taken when one party has a majority in parliament are usually undone when the other party gains control.
I’m not saying you should vote PNP or JLP, although if you’ve done some research it should be easy to see who has advanced Jamaica the most in terms of infrastructure and legislation. Your vote is valuable. Is a third political party worth it?