Holness says bad behaviour by MPs turns off voters

PRIME Minister Andrew Holness said yesterday that parliamentarians can help to re-engage voters in the electoral process by improved behaviour in the House.

Holness was responding to a statement from Leader of the Opposition Dr Peter Phillips at yesterday’s opening session of Parliament, following the Jamaica Labour Party’s (JLP) victory at the polls on September 3, with a 37 per cent voter turnout for the election.

“I will agree that there needs to be joint equity by both political parties and by the Government to engage our voting population, and there are many ways in which this could be done, and indeed we could put the Parliament to work on examining the possibilities of how we could have greater engagement,” the prime minister suggested.

Reacting to Dr Phillips’s suggestion for increased “civic engagement”, he said that what was really needed was that during this term the Parliament institute a strong programme of civic education.

“We cannot run away from the fact that a part of the disengagement is the frustration that the electorate has with how we conduct ourselves in the system,” he stated.

“There is a dissonance that we cannot ignore. I am of the view that if each and every representative [in Parliament] decides that: We can be sharp, but we don’t have to be abrasive; we can be robust, but we don’t have to be disrespectful and rude. And if we decided to elevate our level of representation and to truly represent the integrity and dignity and efficiency of the offices we hold, we can, by dint of that alone, re-engage and reignite in our citizens and in our voters that appetite for participation in the most important right, the right to elect your Government,” Holness said.

He urged all Members of Parliament to, in carrying out their duties, seek the highest level of dignity and efficiency in public affairs.

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