The elections are over; what's ahead?
The final count on February 26, 2016, confirmed victory for the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) with the preliminary count giving them 33 seats as opposed to the People's National Party's 30.
Our political history would suggest that there will be careful scrutiny during the recounting process given the narrow margins separating the two main political parties and the victory between some candidates. In fact, magisterial recounts and election petitions could also result.
Legally, the Electoral Office of Jamaica is able to announce the winners of various seats on the basis of preliminary figures provided by presiding officers in each polling division. However, that is not treated as the official result of the polls because the returning officer must secure each ballot box (over 100 in many cases) before undertaking the painstaking task of counting each ballot paper and accounting for every one that was issued on election day.
Within seven days after the final count has been completed, each returning officer must submit returns to the chief electoral officer along with the election writ indicating the candidate who has the majority vote. The chief electoral officer must then enter the information into a special book and give notice in the gazette of the name of the candidate elected.
Magisterial recounts can delay that process because the returning officer must await the result of the recount before making the return. It is left to be seen how many challenges may emerge.
Provided the seat count remains unchanged, there are some unfinished matters that could be affected by the change in leadership.
1. The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) - The Senate had not yet voted on the bills that could result in the Establishment of the CCJ as Jamaica's final appellate court. Will there be a referendum instead?
2. The incomplete FINSAC Commission of Enquiry - With $100 million reported to have been spent on the commission, the
People's National Party said that it would be too costly to pay the commissioners the further $10 - $20 million (a cost estimated by the JLP) to complete the report. Will the report finally see the light of day?
3. The incomplete West Kingston Commission of Enquiry - The revised budget was $335 million. All evidence was taken by mid-February 2016 and the commissioners indicated that the report would be ready by the end of April 2016. Will we see that report in April 2016?
Interesting times are ahead.