Election day watch

All the People’s National Party, PNP insiders with whom I have spoken have said if the PNP is going to the polls this year, it will want to go by the latest, the 15th December, 2015. If that is still the thinking, Sunday the 15th day of November, 2015 is a crucial day for all to look to. These are the reasons I believe this day is so crucial.

Countries are run by laws. Jamaica is no different.

The announcement of election date is left to the prerogative of the Prime Minister. That date of announcement has to be within a constitutional term of five years or within a one year extended period if there is a war or natural disaster. The moment the announcement is made, the provisions under the Representation of the People Act, ROPA, kick in.

This means that a Prime Minister has little or no control after making an Election Day announcement. Prime Ministers usually announce the dates for nomination and election at the time of making the announcement. However the calculation of these dates is fixed by law.

ROPA stipulates that nomination day must be at least 5 clear days after the date of announcement – see section 21(1A) of ROPA.

In computing clear days, the day on which the period begins and the day on which the period ends are not included.  The said statute also says nomination day cannot fall on a Sunday or on a public holiday.

Let us see how this would work by way of an example – if the Prime Minister makes an announcement on Sunday the 15th day of November 2015, nomination day must be at the earliest Saturday, the 21st day of November 2015. This is because the announcement day of Sunday, the 15th day of November, 2015 is not included so one begins counting on Monday, the 16th November, 2015.  Friday the 20th November, 2015 would be five days but remember that the day on which the period ends, is excluded. Therefore we need to find a day after Friday, the 20th November. Saturday is not a statutory exempt day as it is not a Sunday neither is it a public holiday. Therefore nomination day could be on Saturday the 21stNovember, 2015.

However I do not recall Jamaica ever having a nomination day on a Saturday. People generally tune out of hard news and use the time to recuperate after a long week. Since nomination day comes with great fanfare, it may be better suited for the first Monday after the 21st November – Monday, the 23rd November, 2015.

The said statute also provides that nomination day has to be at most 7 days after the date on which the election announcement is published in the gazette. Gazetting is a means of making something become law. This time period after publication in the gazette is important as it prevents a Prime Minister from waiting for an extended period of time after announcement for nomination – it caps the period.

The other crucial time period given in the statute is the period between nomination and Election Day. The law requires that there be no less than 16 and no more than 23 days between nomination and Election Day – see section 21A of ROPA.

Using the example above, if nomination day is 23rd November, 2015 the earliest election day can be held is Wednesday, the 9th December, 2015. The latest election day can be is Wednesday, the 16th December, 2015.

I have been told that the winter tourist season begins on the 15th December. With that consideration in mind, Election Day may be closer to 9th December, 2015.

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About emilyshields

Attorney-at-Law, Partner -Gifford Thompson & Shields; Broadcast Journalist; Host of RJR's Hotline - www.rjr94fm.com; Gunner Twitter- @emilymshields
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