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Story Highlights

  • The Senate, on Friday, December 5, passed the Representation of the People (Amendment) Act, 2014, which provides for the registration, regulation, and funding of political parties.
  • It is intended that the funds allocated to a registered political party can be used for that organization’s development;
  • In opening Friday’s debate, Justice Minister, Senator the Hon. Mark Golding, said the Bill is a product of recommendations from the Electoral Commission of Jamaica (ECJ)...

The Senate, on Friday, December 5, passed the Representation of the People (Amendment) Act, 2014, which provides for the registration, regulation, and funding of political parties.

The Bill, which was approved in the House of Representatives on October 14. was passed by the Senate with six amendments.

These relate to: registration of political parties, and procedures for registering, refusal of, and objection to applications for registration; proceedings for deregistration; procedures for application and qualification for state funding; obligations of registered political parties qualifying for state funding; use of state funding by political parties; and financial reporting requirements.

It is intended that the funds allocated to a registered political party can be used for that organization’s development; offsetting operating expenses such as salaries of party administrators, electricity, phone, and water bills; party recruitment and civic education; and education and training of members.

In opening Friday’s debate, Justice Minister, Senator the Hon. Mark Golding, said the Bill is a product of recommendations from the Electoral Commission of Jamaica (ECJ), noting that, currently, there is no requirement for local political parties to be registered or for their financial arrangements to be regulated.

“Given the important role that political parties play in the governance of the country, the ECJ determined sometime ago that this situation is no longer tenable,” he pointed out, while emphasizing  that the Bill does not deal with campaign financing for which legislation is currently being drafted.

“This Bill is dealing with one aspect,…state support for the ongoing everyday expenses in running a registered political party,” he informed.

For his part, Government Senator K.D. Knight, while supporting the legislation, raised concern with Clause 3 Section 52AH, which addresses the use of state funding to finance political parties’ daily operations.

He also recommended that a clause be inserted to indicate the date when the Bill’s provisions become effective.

In his remarks, Opposition Senator, Ruel Reid, noted that the legislation is a step in the right direction.

“The public has been asking, for many years, for the registration of political parties. We find acceptable, the requirements for party registration because it’s long overdue and we are happy to say finally, at last,” Senator Reid said.

In his response, Senator Golding stated that prioritization of expenditure is always “controversial” issue.

He argued that the legislation makes it mandatory for a political party, if it is going to contest an election, to be registered. As a result, he added, the organization will have to meet certain ongoing compliance related obligations, “which entails additional expenditure by those parties.”