Watch the record ... Blythe predicts big win for Vaz; Jacobs promises 10,000 votes
FORMER CENTRAL Westmoreland Member of Parliament (MP) Karl Blythe is predicting that the record for the widest margin of victory in the constituency could be erased after the votes for today's polls are tallied.
But the Jamaica Labour Party's (JLP) Faye Reid Jacobs said she is poised to win the seat 2:1.
Jacobs told The Gleaner yesterday that a wind of change was blowing through Central Westmoreland, and "I am more convinced about that now more than ever.
"Westmoreland is all green; if there is orange, I am not seeing it. I don't know of any democratic process, free and fair, that could upset what we are seeing," she said.
Today's by-election is being held to choose a replacement for Roger Clarke, who died in office in August.
Blythe twice scored 4,000-plus margins in general elections, in 1993 and 1997, and feels that the People?s National Party (PNP) base is energised behind Dwayne Vaz.
Vaz's competitors are Reid Jacobs, a Westmoreland-born banker, and Ras Astor Black, a much-travelled independent candidate who frequently participates in by-elections but has never had success.
The record margin in the constituency were the 4,417 votes recorded in 1997 when Blythe polled 10,863 votes to the JLP's Trevor Brooks' 6,446.
Clarke won Central Westmoreland by 3,042 votes in the 2011 general election, stopping the challenge of Marlene Malahoo Forte. He polled 11,564 votes, the highest in the constituency's history. Blythe said while he is not taking the voters for granted, even the most junior political watcher would know that the PNP will win the seat.
"In Central Westmoreland, we have passed the people?s test for years," Blythe, the longest-serving MP for the constituency - from 1989 to 2007 - told The Gleaner.
"Because it is a by-election, I am not sure that the margin of victory will reach Roger's or even mine. Because of the high stimulation that I saw here, I am thinking that we will get a higher victory than normal in a by-election. I am looking at a margin between 2,500 and 3,000 votes," Blythe said.
"It is a matter of if we have rain and if we bring out the base. I love what I am seeing on the ground. Since this campaign, I see a movement among the young people to come out to vote. That is very encouraging. Even though I tell you 2,500 to 3,000 votes, I would not be shocked if the record is surpassed."
But Andrew Holness, the JLP leader, who, like PNP president, Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, has been on the hustings, said from his interaction with the people there, it is clear to him that "Westmoreland is changing".
"There is a deep frustration and real resentment to politics generally, and the PNP in particular," Holness said.
Some 39,367 persons are registered to vote in today's poll at 160 polling stations in 51 locations.
Blythe said yesterday that despite the presence of Holness on the ground, he did not expect the JLP turnout to be high. The most votes polled by the JLP in the seat was 8,633 by Russell Hammond when he finished second to Clarke in the 2007 election. Malahoo Forte polled the second highest in 8,522.
Jacobs said yesterday that "just about 80 per cent of the constituency is all green" and that she is going to win with a healthy margin.
"I think I will post 10,000 votes. In a by-election, I think we will get about 45 per cent turnout. We are thinking that about 15,000 voters will be out, and of that I should get about 10,000," Jacobs said.
But Blythe feels it would be laughable to entertain any thoughts of a JLP win.
"Westmoreland, from the days of Michael Manley, fell in love with the PNP," said Blythe.
On a recent visit to the constituency, a JLP supporter told The Gleaner that a lot of older PNP supporters have told him they are unhappy with their party and will not be voting for Vaz.
Blythe said it is a fact that there is a need for improvement in the constituency, but said he and other representatives have faithfully discharged their duties to the people.
"We do have some problems, that's a fact. We have not yet solved some of them. We need to improve our roads, and we need things for the young people, and I am hoping that Vaz will push on those two aspects," Blythe said.