63 seats in parliament up for grabs
Despite concerns of violence, it was a Carnival atmosphere this past Nomination Day in Jamaica, as both parties submitted their candidates for the February 25 general elections. Miami resident Carlton Cooke, returning to vote in his South St. Andrew home constituency, was concerned for his safety following reports of violence associated with a Jamaica Labor Party in Montego Bay last Sunday. “But from all reports, all went well,” says Cooke.
This year, 152 candidates from the ruling People’s National Party (PNP) and the opposition Jamaican Labor Party (JLP) will contest 63 seats in parliament. In addition, 7 candidates were nominated from the National Democratic Party, 19 were put forward from smaller parties or as independent candidates.
After all the candidates were nominated, with each expressing confidence in winning in their respective constituencies, the serious business of translating this confidence into victory begins. The latest formal political poll released two weeks ago had the PNP leading the JLP by 4 percentage points. However, the consensus among PNP insiders is that the party will still secure leadership, winning anywhere from 37 to 44 seats. JLP supporters are predicting at least 35 seats in a narrow victory to retake the reign of government lost to the PNP in the 2011 general elections.
With the nomination process over, Director of Elections Orette Fishers says his office will move full speed ahead finalizing preparations. Both electoral office workers and the nation’s security forces will vote on February 22, as their services are needed for February 25.
On Nomination Day, political leader struck a picture of confidence, claiming victory for their parties. Simpson Miller, who has been touting the economic achievements of her government since she announced the election date on January 31, is confident the PNP will be “returned to continue the people’s business.” Referred to some Jamaicans fondly as “Momma P,” she jokingly told supporters and the media at her constituency office that she no longer regarded JLP leader Andrew Holness as her son as she did during the 2011 election campaign.
“If he was my child he would behave differently.” However she promised Holness “a whipping on election day.”
Holness, however, seem confident in his party’s chances, arguing that the PNP hasn’t done enough to ease the financial burdens of Jamaicans. Recently he announced a 10-point plan, including tax relief for people earning under J$1.5 million (US$12,400), to ease this burden. He said while some people focus on economics, he “practices practical-nomics.” He also noted that recent internal polls conducted by the JLP showed a swing towards the JLP.
Holness, whose wife Juliet was nominated as the JLP candidate in the East Rural St. Andrew constituency, referring to Simpson Miller promise to whip him at the polls, said “she can only whip her children.”