The Electoral Commission of Jamaica (ECJ) has confirmed that it will, on January 2, 2018, start accepting applications for political parties to register, just over three years after amendments to the Representation of the People Act were laid in Parliament.
Prime Minister Andrew Holness had earlier this month indicated the January timeline for applications.
Under the Political Parties Registration Regulations, 2017, which fall under the Representation of the People Act, the legal framework also provides for the deregistration of political parties, and will require parties to have updated records.
According to the ECJ’s 2010 report to Parliament on political party registration, parties applying must have at least 500 members in good financial standing, and submit details such as the names and addresses of the leader or president, the general secretary, the treasurer, and other individuals designated as officers of the party, as well as the address of the office where the records of the party are maintained.
The ECJ can reject an application for registration for a number of reasons such as, if the proposed name of the party is the same as, or similar to, that of a party’s already registered; the party name is offensive; if any of its information is false; or if any objection to the registration is found to be valid.
Political parties recognised by the commission are to be financed through dues to their members, contributions from individuals and organisations, and fund-raising events, as well as funds from the State and income from legal sources. State funding cannot be more than 40 per cent of the party’s income for the previous financial year’s operations.
Additionally, the financial records of a registered political party will be subject to auditing by an independent auditor approved by the ECJ within 90 days after the close of the entity’s financial year. They are also obligated to file an annual financial report with the commission, and notify the commission of all banks in which the party’s accounts are held and the details of these accounts.
Prior to the passage of the Bill in 2014, there was no requirement for political parties in Jamaica to be registered or for their finances to be regulated. A Registrar of Political Parties has now been set up by the ECJ to manage the monitoring and enforcement of the legislation.
Jamaica has maintained a strong two-party system with electors over the past five decades switching between the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and the People’s National Party (PNP). A number of minor parties have emerged over the years but none has managed to maintain a strong presence.
The National Democratic Movement (NDM), which was formed in 1995 and was tipped to be a major challenger to the dominant PNP and JLP, failed to win a seat in the 1997 General Election and was severely weakened after its founder Bruce Golding left and returned to the JLP.
The NDM, which now functions more like a lobby group, in the 2016 General Election entered only seven candidates for the 63-seat legislature, while the Marcus Garvey People’s Political Party fielded six, and the People’s Progressive Party, two. There were also ten independent candidates nominated. However, in total, they averaged 0.02 per cent of the overall 882 389 electors who voted.