Jamaica's opposition wins elections
30 December 2011, 16:51
Kingston - On Jamaica's rutted streets, the
complaints have been chronic — home ownership is out of reach for most
wage earners, the cost of electricity has skyrocketed, water service
regularly fizzles out and decent jobs are scarce.
Fed up with
chronic hard times, voters in this debt-wracked Caribbean nation on
Thursday threw out the ruling party and delivered a landslide triumph to
the opposition People's National Party, or PNP, whose campaign
energetically tapped voter disillusionment especially among the numerous
The win marks a remarkable political comeback
for former Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, who was Jamaica's first
female leader during her year-and-a-half-long first stint in office
that ended in 2007. The 66-year-old known affectionately as "Sista P"
reached out to Jamaicans as a champion of the poor with a popular touch.
cares about the ghetto people," said Trishette Bond, a twenty-something
resident of gritty Trench Town who wore an orange shirt and a bright
orange wig, the colour of Simpson Miller's slightly centre-left party,
which led the island for 18 years before narrowly losing 2007 elections.
word of her election win emerged on Thursday night, PNP supporters
shimmied and shouted in the capital, Kingston, and motorists honked
horns in celebration as they tore down the streets.
"I am humbled
as I stand before you and I wish to thank the Jamaican people for their
love, for their support and for giving the People's National Party and
the leader of the party her own mandate," she said, after receiving hugs
from numerous candidates, some crying.
Simpson Miller defeated
Prime Minister Andrew Holness, who at 39 is Jamaica's youngest leader
and leads the centre-right Jamaica Labor Party.
Time for introspection
Holness said the defeat will prompt a time of introspection and reflection for party leaders to examine what went wrong.
wish the new government well. We hope for the benefit of the country
that they will do a good job," said Holness, who warned during the
campaign that an opposition win would scare away foreign investment and
dash hopes of economic progress.
While official results have not
been released, elections director Orrette Fisher told The Associated
Press that preliminary results showed Simpson Miller heading to victory.
on the margins, it appears safe to say" that Simpson Miller's party
won, Fisher said shortly after Jamaican newspapers and broadcasters
called the election for the PNP. He expected his office to release the
official count and breakdown of parliamentary seats on Saturday.
News station TVJ said Simpson Miller's People's National Party won 41 seats in parliament and Holness's Jamaica Labor Party 22.
Miller is beloved by her supporters for her folksy, plainspoken style.
She became Jamaica's first female prime minister in March 2006 after she
was picked by party delegates when PJ Patterson retired as leader. But
she was tossed out of office a year later in a narrow election defeat.
time around, she has pledged to lift debt-wracked Jamaica out of
poverty, secure foreign investment, and create jobs. Specifics are few,
Her party will face deep economic problems in this
island of 2.8 million people, with a punishing debt of roughly $18.6bn,
or 130% of gross domestic product. That's a rate about 10 percentage
points higher than debt-troubled Italy's.
opposition lawmaker Omar Davies said one of the first things the
People's National Party will do is get "a true assessment of the state
of the economy," a dig at Holness' party which was accused of rarely
providing citizens with a clear picture of the island's dire fiscal
Holness, who became prime minister two months ago after
Bruce Golding, Jamaica's leader since 2007, abruptly stepped down in
October amid anaemic public backing, won his parliamentary seat with 54
percent of the vote.
Simpson Miller has been a stalwart of the
People's National Party since the 1970s. She was first elected to
Parliament in 1976 and became a Cabinet member in 1989. Partisans have
long admired Simpson Miller as a Jamaican who was born in rural poverty
and grew up in a Kingston ghetto, not far from the crumbling concrete
jungle made famous by Bob Marley.
During her brief tenure as
prime minister, her support waned amid complaints she responded poorly
to Hurricane Dean and was evasive about a scandal regarding a Dutch oil
trading firm's $460 000 payment to her political party leading up to
The two top candidates' different styles were clear while they cast their votes.
is largely seen as unexciting, but bright and pragmatic. He whisked
into the voting centre in the middle class area of Mona, barely
interacting with voters. After being heckled by an opposition partisan,
he said he was "very confident" of a Labour victory and departed after
taking three questions from reporters.
By contrast, Simpson
Miller hugged and chatted with supporters at a school in Whitfield Town
and told election workers to help struggling elderly voters.
party, which experimented with democratic socialism in the 1970s, is
still perceived as more focused on social programmes than the slightly
more conservative Labour. There are no longer stark ideological
differences between the two clan-like factions that have dominated
Jamaican politics since the onetime British colony began self-rule in
1944. Jamaica became independent within the British Commonwealth in