The Parliamentarian 2015 Issue Three

Page 28

ADVANCES IN POLITICAL PARTY FINANCING

ADVANCES IN POLITICAL PARTY FINANCING IN JAMAICA

Hon. Phillip Paulwell, MP is a

Cabinet Minister and Leader of the House in Jamaica, having been in Parliament for twenty years. Having served in the Senate from 1995 to 1997, he was elected to represent East Kingston and Port Royal in 1997. A lawyer by profession, he is currently Minister of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining, with additional responsibility for parliamentary affairs and electoral matters.

Jamaica’s strong tradition of voluntarily chosen, representative government has been enhanced by the presence and activity of political parties, as the vast majority of persons who have contested elections over the years have done so under the banner of one of these organisations. Their integrity and operation is therefore an appropriate subject for scrutiny and legislation. Jamaica’s laws and conventions facilitate, promote and protect freedom of choice for electors and entry into representational politics by its citizens. This is reflected in an amendment made to the Representation of the People Act in 2014 immediately following the 70th anniversary of universal adult suffrage. The prime objective of this amendment is to improve the regulation and funding arrangements governing political parties. The Representation of the People Act, passed in 1944 when universal adult suffrage took effect and updated repeatedly thereafter, provides the legislative framework for the nation’s system of parliamentary democracy. It makes provision

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concerning the registration of electors, electoral procedure, financial and administrative matters, electoral offences and other relevant subjects. Additionally, Parliament has enacted the Electoral Commission (Interim) Act 2006, thereby establishing the Electoral Commission of Jamaica (ECJ) whose objects are “to safeguard the democratic foundations of Jamaica by enabling eligible electors to elect, through free and fair elections, their representatives to govern Jamaica.”1 Political party financing in particular is brought into the remit of the ECJ via subsection 6(1) of the legislation, in which the functions of the body are delineated. Paragraph 6(1)(g) empowers the ECJ to “approve political parties eligible to receive state funding with respect to any or all aspects of the electoral process” and paragraph (h) authorises it to “administer electoral funding and financial disclosure requirements.” In keeping with its mandate, the ECJ has submitted three reports to Parliament relating to the financing of political parties and election campaigns in recent times. Its report on

“Jamaica’s strong tradition of voluntarily chosen, representative government has been enhanced by the presence and activity of political parties, as the vast majority of persons who have contested elections over the years have done so under the banner of one of these organisations. Their integrity and operation is therefore an appropriate subject for scrutiny and legislation.”