(Aug. 26, 2020) On August 11, 2020, Prime Minister Andrew Holness announced in Parliament that early elections would be held on September 3, 2020, with “Nomination Day” scheduled for August 18, 2020. Holness stated that the rise in COVID-19 cases and the devastating effects of the pandemic on employment in the country demanded “responsibility and balance” and made it necessary that he “seek another mandate from the people.” An affirmation of popular support for the government would allow it to impose further measures to “keep people safe and … balance the economy.” The election date precedes the period between February 25 and June 10, 2021, in which a regular general election could take place in accordance with section 65(1) of Jamaica’s Constitution.
The announcement has triggered the beginning of the campaign period, which ends on September 2, 2020, in accordance with section 2(b) of the Representation of the People (Amendment) Act 2016. This act regulates various aspects of contributions to parties and political candidates. A press release issued by the Electoral Commission of Jamaica on August 12 provides specific instructions regarding campaign financing for the upcoming election. Accordingly,
… all gifts, sponsorships and monies contributed to political parties and candidates during this period must be disclosed to the Electoral Commission of Jamaica. Registered political parties and candidates are required to report campaign expenditure and contributions for the period.
Contributors may give a maximum of 1.5 million dollars [about US$9,900] to each candidate and up to 31.5 million [about US$207,500] to a registered political party. Contributors of 250 thousand dollars [about US$1,650] or more must declare contributions and any government contracts valued at 500 thousand dollars [about US$3,300] or more, which are held or gained up to two years prior or after a contribution.
Individuals or entities who currently hold government contracts must declare any contribution no later than 14 days of making the contribution. Individuals or entities who are awarded government contracts after making a contribution must declare same within 14 days of entering into the contract.
A candidate may spend a maximum of 15 million dollars [about US$98,800] in election expenses and a registered political party up to 630 million dollars [about US$4.15 million].
Failure to disclose contributions or government contracts held can result in charges not exceeding one million dollars [about US$6,600] and/or a term of imprisonment not exceeding 12 months.
The financing of election campaigns for the September 3 parliamentary election will be closely monitored by the Electoral Commission of Jamaica.
Additional rules apply for campaigning during the coronavirus pandemic. According to COVID-19 election protocols, door-to-door campaigning will be limited to five persons, with no more than two persons from any campaigning party allowed to enter voters’ homes. Campaigners will be required to wear face masks, sanitize their hands, and remove or sanitize their shoes upon entry. Visits may not last more than 15 minutes. The protocols further limit the number of persons in attendance at “election meetings, including rallies and gatherings during the campaign or on counting night at any assembly centres or venue” to 20 persons.