Jamaica Observer:– THE country’s political parties yesterday agreed on a code of conduct for campaigning leading up to the September 3 General Election in light of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
The Office of the Political Ombudsman, in a statement last night, said in a meeting held yesterday representatives of the Jamaica Labour Party, People’s National Party, United Independents’ Congress, and the Jamaica Progressive Party agreed on a code of conduct for mitigating health-related risks to voters and managing the general challenges and constraints in conducting an election during this time.
“In this meeting, with guidance from the ‘COVID-19 Protocol for the Conduct of a National Election’, published by the Electoral Office of Jamaica and the ‘Interim Guidelines for the Conduct of Election Campaign during COVID-19’, published by the Ministry of Health and Wellness, we agreed that there have to be changes to the usual campaign practices. The increased use of public education of digital messaging and compliance with new health requirements was emphasised,” Political Ombudsman Donna Parchment Brown said.
AGREEMENT AND DECLARATION ON POLITICAL CONDUCT (CODE
The parties agree that their candidates will be held accountable for breaches of laws, codes and protocols. Vote-buying, damaging other candidates’ campaign materials and violence were highlighted.
The political parties have all agreed to uphold the provisions of the Code of Political Conduct and that custodees will be asked to witness the signing by all candidates as soon as possible after Nomination Day at a location to be arranged in each parish.
Candidates and campaign organisers must ensure that the provisions of the Disaster Risk Management Act (Enforcement Measures) are observed. Social distancing, the wearing of masks, sanitisation, and the limitation on public gatherings will be enforced. Walkabouts and door-to-door campaigning should be carried out in groups of no more than five people, with each group acting as a unit. There should be no mixing of these groups, and they are to remain six feet away from each other.
If a campaign group intends to enter a home, no more than two people within the group are to enter the dwelling. These two individuals are not to remain within this dwelling for longer than 15 minutes.
Digital communication will replace much of the usual large meetings. The parties have agreed to hold their candidates to the standards in the code regarding the use of social media. They have agreed to condemn posts which are defamatory, incite violence, or are malicious.
To prevent large gatherings and to ensure the safety of all, it was agreed that only two people per polling division may be invited to join the candidates on Nomination Day.
It was reiterated that polling stations will remain open until everyone at the polling stations have cast their vote, and every effort will be made to enable access to the polls by all electors, including those in quarantined communities.