Less than 24 hours after the People’s National Party (PNP) was trounced in the general election, Dr. Peter Phillips has resigned as President of the party.
Preliminary figures show that the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), which was returned to office for a second consecutive term, had secured 49 of the 63 seats contested in the election that Prime Minister Andrew Holness had called six months before the fifth anniversary of the 2016 victory.
Phillips, 70, acknowledged that the “results had been very unfavourable to the People’s National Party” adding “as in all undertakings such as this, the person held responsible must rest with the leader of the party.
“Accordingly I consider it my duty to demit office as President of the Party and I have written to the chairman of the People’s National Party to ask that the National Executive Council and the Executive of the party make the necessary arrangements as soon as it is practicable to elect a new leader,” Phillips said, thanking “all those who voted yesterday for the People’s National Party” as well as those who worked on the campaign.
Phillips said that he expects the executive will establish a review committee shortly to analyse the causes of the defeat and to chart a path for rebuilding.
“I would like to say in closing that I have had over the past four decades a tremendous opportunity to serve my country and my party giving public service and I relish this and I certainly will do all I can to ensure a smooth transition of the leadership of the party and a swift rebuilding of the People’s National Party so that it can continue to fulfil its historic mission on behalf of the people of Jamaica”.
Phillips served as finance and planning minister under a Portia Simpson Miller administration between 2012 and 2016.
Phillips who holds a Bachelor’s degree in Economics, a Master’s in Government, and a Doctorate in Sociology from the State University of New York at Binghamton, first entered Parliament as an appointed senator after the PNP won the 1989 general elections.
He served as a government minister on numerous occasions while the PNP held office and when it lost the 2016 general election, Phillips won the subsequent leadership election in 2017. But two years later, he was challenged unsuccessfully for the leadership of the PNP by Peter Bunting, who was among the high profile casualties of Thursday’s general election.
Phillips told the news conference that until a new leader is elected, he will continue to exercise all the responsibilities of the PNP president, including being Opposition Leader in the new Parliament.
He confirmed that he had been in touch with Prime Minister Andrew Holness on Thursday night offering his congratulations, reiterating that it is for the party’s executive branches “to determine the timetable of their operations and having the selection especially in the context of COVID-19.
“I don’t intend to influence the arrangements myself, but I am certainly available for consultation…so that matters can be done in good order and with the appropriate expedition”.
According to the preliminary figures released by the Electoral Office of Jamaica (EOJ), the J LP won 406,764 of the popular votes, while the PNP won 305,157. A total of 1,161 votes went to independent candidates and third parties.
It said the overall voter turnout was approximately 37 per cent, compared to 48.37 per cent in the 2016 general election.