NO! CAFFE appeals to PM Holness not to call elections amid COVID-19 outbreak

Leader of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and Prime Minister of Jamaica Andrew Holness.

The Citizens Action For Free and Fair Elections (CAFFE), while recognising that the general elections are due before March 2021, has urged Prime Minister Andrew Holness not to call them as the island intensifies its novel coronavirus (COVID-19) response.

CAFFE, in a statement on Tuesday (March 17), noted that as it will perform its civic duty in monitoring the elections whenever they are called, and understanding that it is within Holness’ prerogative to announce a date at any time—the agency recommends that the Prime Minister refrain from calling elections in the next three months.

Citing multiple factors affecting the calling of a general election within the three month window, CAFFE recommended a declaration be clearly made by PM Holness to prevent any “temptation for holding gatherings in connection with the anticipated elections and all our efforts be concentrated on overcoming this major threat to personal and national well-being.”

“The threat of the COVID-19 pandemic has begun to disrupt all national, communal and personal plans and activities.  The prevailing situation makes it impossible for CAFFE, the Electoral Commission, the Political Parties and other civic organisations to proceed with their pre-election activities,” the agency wrote.

“Secondly, from the beginning of May to the first week of June, students in our High Schools and Universities will be engaged in the preparation for and sitting of scheduled examinations. Unless the examinations are postponed, General Elections in this period would be highly inconvenient because teachers and students will need to be concentrating on the exams at that time,” CAFFE added.

According to the agency, many teachers are election officers and would therefore have conflicting demands on their time and attention. 

What’s more, school buildings are used as the location for polling stations and, the organisation argued, to conduct elections in these buildings could be disruptive of the exam arrangements.  

“This means that the elections cannot prudently be called before the second week of June and considering the preparatory work needed June should be ruled out altogether,” CAFFE contended.