The Office of the Political Ombudsman says while there were fewer incidents of political violence during the last General Election campaign, it solidified the view that vote buying has become an accepted norm by too many Jamaicans.

It made the revelation in a documented review of the September 2020 General Elections.

The Office says that’s the first time in history it’s hosted an election campaign review, where it convened meetings and had discussions with several stakeholders.

The review was held with a view to determine lessons learned from the September 2020 General Elections and to make recommendations for future elections.

Stevian Simmonds reports.

According to the Political Ombudsman’s report, the participants in the September 2020 Election review, recognised a number of positive elements of the campaign.

It says those include, fewer incidents of vitriol and violence, the move to a virtual space to conduct campaign meetings, in response to the COVID-19 restrictions, and the distribution of masks by politicians.

But Political Ombudsman, Donna Parchment Brown says the adverse conduct during the campaign period was overwhelming, as there were clear violations of the Disaster Risk Management Act.

In fact, she says 66-percent of the stakeholders said yes to a survey question asking if they noticed any COVID-19 breaches.

She says those include, unapproved mass gatherings in some areas, limited social distancing and the non-wearing of masks.

Mrs. Parchment Brown says the stakeholders found that there was a significant change in the number of violent confrontations that occurred during the 2020 election campaign period compared to that of 2016.

She says her office investigated some 40-odd reported breaches.

But she says there were concerns that some candidates, through false claims, could have inspired reprisals and used the media to spread false information, if the police and her office were not quick and robust in their reports about some incidents.

The Political Ombudsman says the stakeholders notice there was a significant willingness to accept vote buying as a norm.

She says there’s still a failure to remove campaign materials from walls and public buildings in a timely manner.

It’s why the Political Ombudsman’s office is recommending, that campaign material should be bought from the political parties by supporters so that there is more ownership and accountability.

The Political Ombudsman also wants there to be a requirement that advertisements must include a
statement by candidates endorsing the message. And the establishment of fixed election dates.