Almost there - JLP, PNP advance candidate selection
The nation's two major political parties are far advanced in selecting their slate of candidates for the 63 seats up for grab, as election expectancy heightens, with the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) currently a nose ahead of the People's National Party (PNP).
Dr Horace Chang, JLP general secretary, told The Gleaner, yesterday, that 60 of the 63 candidates for constituencies islandwide were in place, while his counterpart in the PNP, Paul Burke, revealed that there were fewer than 10 constituencies that will be conducting run-offs next month.
Although there are fewer unresolved seats for the JLP, the situation appears to be just as explosive as it is in the PNP, in at least two constituencies.
With problems plaguing West Central St Catherine, the powerful selection committee has cancelled a planned run-off between Senator Dr Christopher Tufton and Devon Wint, councillor of the Point Hill Division in the constituency.
The rule of the JLP stipulates that as long as an individual is a fully paid-up member, and applies to be a candidate, the application is referred to the general secretary who screens the applicant and passes the matter on to the selection committee, which then makes a determination if the challenge should proceed.
The Gleaner was told that JLP Leader Andrew Holness was the lone member of the Selection Committee who voted in favour of a run-off in West Central St Catherine, as other members opted to cancel the controversial selection exercise.
Under the rules of the JLP, veteran politician Dr Ken Baugh, outgoing member of parliament, remains the candidate until a replacement is selected.
The situation is just as fuzzy in West Central St James. Former Senator Dennis Meadows has applied to be the JLP's candidate, but it has since been revealed that Marlene Malahoo Forte, a current senator, is being tipped to run on the party ticket.
Malahoo Forte, who would not be drawn into any verbal exchanges, said that she had been considering her options after having been approached, but Meadows has been more vocal. He complained that he is being pushed aside by persons whom he described as "surrogates" of Holness.
"It is no secret that my application has been met with much resistance from those who are hell-bent on prolonging the JLP's stay in opposition with their divisive machinations," said Meadows. "Credit to Andrew Holness; despite my not supporting him in the leadership race, he extended the olive branch shortly after winning a bruising leadership race."
The PNP is confronted with its own challenges. Burke disclosed that the secretariat has signed off on new interval selection guidelines and processes. "All the different aspirants have been advised and we have started appraisal interviews," he said.
Burke said that up to last Friday, most appraisals for new aspirants had been completed. "I expect that all will be completed by the end of the week so that, come August, we can start doing selection conferences in instances where there are more than one aspirant."
He explained that selection will be done for all 63 constituencies next month, but estimated that fewer than 10 will require extra attention. "It will not exceed 10, where there is more than one aspirant," he said.
Burke did not specify whether the constituencies of three members of parliament who have been unceremoniously pushed under the political bus by detractors, within the PNP, are among the eight to 10 to be carefully managed.
South East St Ann, the seat of Youth and Culture Minister Lisa Hanna; North East St Elizabeth, represented by Raymond Pryce, and Hugh Buchanan's South West St Elizabeth seat have been thrown in the spotlight.
Burke told The Gleaner that the focus of the secretariat that he heads is on the 63 constituencies at this time, as all 227 Local Government candidates for the PNP have long been finalised.