Wed | Dec 7, 2016

Real PNP territory: The voting history of Westmoreland Central (1944-2014)

Published:Sunday | November 23, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Former JLP leader and then Prime Minister Bruce Golding (centre) gets a hug from the party's candidate for the 2007 General Elections, Russell Hammond, during a rally in Central Westmoreland in the lead-up to the poll.
Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller alongside the late Roger Clarke on the campaign trail in Central Westmoreland in the lead up-to the 2007 General Elections.-File
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FILLING ROGER'S SHOES - CENTRAL WESTMORELAND VOTES

Anthony 'Tony' Myers, Contributor

Between 1944 and 1959, the number of registered voters on list moved from 663,069 to 853,539, an increase of 190,470 (28.7%). As a result of a change in the Constitution, 45 constituencies were provided for in Jamaica, an increase of 13 over the 32 that had been fixed from 1944.

Of the 14 parishes, only St Thomas, Portland, Trelawny, St James, and Hanover were not affected as they still retained the two constituencies allotted in 1944.

Westmoreland was allotted one additional seat, moving up to three. So in addition to western and eastern, which existed from 1944, the country now had a Central Westmoreland constituency. The Parliamentary General Elections were held on July 28, 1959, with the People's National Party's (PNP) Matthew Uriah Henry polling 7,703 votes to defeat the Jamaica Labour Party's (JLP) Ernest Segree Lewis, who polled 5,013, by 2,690 votes.

Come 1962, Henry polled 6,897 votes in the April 10 General Elections, defeating the JLP's candidate, Esme M. Grant, who polled 6,358 votes, by a margin of 539 votes.

In 1967, the numbers of seats were increased by eight, moving from 45 to 53. The number of constituencies in Westmoreland was increased from three to four. So we now had Western, Central, North Eastern, and South Eastern.

The general elections were held on the February 21, 1967, and Henry retained the seat for the PNP. He polled 5,847 votes to defeat his JLP opponent, Astill Henry Sangster, who polled 3,767 votes.

In the February 29, 1972, General Elections, Henry, who won in 1959, 1962, and 1967 was succeeded by Walter Cheddasingh, and the PNP's control of Central Westmoreland continued under his stewardship.

Cheddasingh polled 6,174 votes, defeating his JLP opponent, Wilbert M. Surjue, who polled 2,912 votes, by a margin of 3,262.

In the December 15, 1976, General Elections, Cheddasingh polled 6,909 votes to defeat the JLP's Harry Norton, who polled 4,730 votes.

So the PNP had five consecutive victories - 1959, 1962, 1967, 1972, and 1976, in Central Westmoreland.

Come October 30, 1980, it was joy in the JLP camp as not only did the party win 51 of the 60 seats, but Central Westmoreland was among those that fell into green hands.

The JLP's Karam Joseph, by polling 7,353 votes, defeated the PNP Pearl McKoy, who polled 5,461 votes.

The PNP did not contest the 1983 snap elections, and consequently, the JLP controlled all 60 seats in Parliament between 1983 and February 1989.

FOUR-STAR GENERAL

The rise of the 'four-star general' , Enoch Karl Blythe, started on the February 9, 1989, as he polled 8,021 votes to defeat his JLP opponent, Carlton C.C. Jones, who polled 4,763 by a massive margin of 3,258.

In the revision of the constituencies boundaries in 1992, the number of constituencies in Westmoreland was reduced from four to three as Westmoreland North Eastern was no longer on the map.

Consequently, the number of electors in Westmoreland Central moved from 15,910 in the February 9, 1989, General Elections to 21,522 in the March 30, 1993 poll.

With 8,954 votes, Blythe defeated his JLP opponent, Astill Sangster, who polled 4,763. There was another massive margin of victory for Blythe in the December 18, 1997 General Elections as he polled 10,863 votes to his JLP opponent Trevor Brooks' 6,446.

Come October 16, 2002, Blythe once again devastated his JLP opponent, Trevor Brooks, by polling 9,425 votes to 6,640.

The PNP chose political stalwart Roger Clarke to represent the party in the September 3, 2007, general election after Blythe walked away from representational politics, and although his margin of victory was not as massive as Blythe's in 2002, Clarke polled 10,441 votes to his JLP opponent Russell Hammond's 8,633.

Come December 29, 2011, Roger Clarke received the highest number of votes in Central Westmoreland since it was created in 1959 - 11,564, beating his JLP opponent, Marlene Malaoo-Forte, who polled 8,522 by a wide margin of 3,042 votes.

There can be no doubt as to which party controls Central Westmoreland. It is indeed PNP territory.

Anthony 'Tony' Myers is a statistician and political analyst.