Jamaica opposition wins landslide vote
30 December 2011, 11:36
KINGSTON, Dec 30 – Jamaica’s leading opposition People’s National Party
won a landslide election, according to preliminary results, in a vote
driven by concerns about crime, corruption and poverty.
The preliminary results indicated the left-leaning party had won 41
out of 63 constituencies, giving it a resounding majority and showing
the door to Prime Minister Andrew Holness, 39, the youngest person to
hold the top office.
The results were released late Thursday, but within hours of polls
closing local media had called the PNP’s victory, and PNP leader Portia
Simpson Miller, the designated prime minister, delivered an ecstatic
“You will know everything. We will never hide anything from you. Now
you have a government you can trust,” she told jubilant supporters.
Miller, who became the first woman prime minister in 2006 but
narrowly lost a reelection bid the next year, promised a “partnership
with you, the Jamaican people, a partnership with the private sector,
the media and civil society.”
She said Holness — of the center-right Jamaica Labor Party (JLP) —
had called earlier to concede defeat and offer his congratulations,
describing his mood as “gracious.”
Turnout was high in the palm-fringed former British colony of three
million, where voters’ chief concerns were crime, corruption and
Monitors reported long lines of voters in some districts, mainly due
to technical problems with the voting machines, but Thursday’s elections
did not see the violence that had marred previous votes.
“We have had reports from some supervisors who say things are going
smoothly while there are others who say the machines are slow. But slow
is relative because some persons just don’t want to wait,” Director of
Elections Orette Fisher was quoted as saying in the Jamaica Observer.
Over 1.6 million voters — 75 percent of registered voters — in the 63
constituencies were projected to have cast their ballots by the time
polls closed at 5:00 pm (2200 GMT). The 2007 vote saw a lower turnout,
at 60 percent.
Police reported a shooting in the Saint Catherine constituency in the
country’s southeast, but no one was hurt and the suspect was arrested
in an incident officials did not believe to be politically motivated.
In the eastern parish of Portland, a 70-year-old farmer collapsed and died just after casting his vote, local media reported.
Residents provided their own security at the polls in the PNP stronghold of Trench Town, a local gang member said.
With Holness and Simpson Miller both predicting victory, throngs of
supporters dressed in party colors were earlier seen celebrating in some
sections of western Jamaica.
In Trenchtown, a Kingston PNP bastion, voters flooded polling
stations dressed in orange T-shirts, the color of the opposition party.
Shops there were closed for two hours to allow employees to vote.
Polls conducted by Don Anderson — who has correctly called the last
three elections here — showed the opposition PNP marginally ahead up to
late last week, but most pollsters said the race was too close to call.
Holness assumed office on October 23 when Bruce Golding stepped down under pressure.
Golding, who led the JLP to victory in 2007 and ended 17 straight
years of PNP rule, resigned in the political fallout from the
government’s fight against the extradition to the United States of
Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke, reportedly the former leader of the Shower
Posse, a JLP-tied gang.
When authorities moved on some of Kingston’s poorest and most
crime-ridden areas in May 2010, a massive operation left 76 Jamaicans
dead. The gang’s link to the JLP has hurt its sway in poor areas still
traumatized by the incident.
“My grandfather voted JLP, my father voted JLP, and I have always
voted JLP, but I lost three children in May 2010, so for me now it’s PNP
or nothing,” a resident of Tivoli Gardens in West Kingston told AFP.
When campaigning officially ended at midnight Tuesday, gunfire rang
out at a JLP event in Westmoreland. One party supporter was killed and
two others were wounded, authorities said. Both candidates condemned the
While police have cited figures showing a decline in violent crimes,
voters remain deeply concerned over street crime, as well as jobs and
corruption in the public sector.