Five PNP MPs under threat
At least five sitting government members of parliament (MPs) are under threat of not being allowed to face the voters in the next general election, with regional appraisal panels approving challenges to their candidacy.
Youth Minister Lisa Hanna and Attorney General Patrick Atkinson, as well as backbenchers Raymond Pryce, Hugh Buchanan, and Dr Lynvale Bloomfield will have to pass upcoming delegates' tests if they are to have any hopes of making it on to the ballot.
"There will be contests in approximately 10 constituencies," said General Secretary Paul Burke, who refused to disclose the constituencies where contests are to be held, while also withholding the names of the applicants.
"There is a regional appraisal committee that can turn down an individual, so why I am so cagey is because in some cases, some of the applicants have not been approved, but they have a right to appeal," Burke said.
"I will know those that have been approved this [coming] Sunday at the respective regional conferences," he added.
The People's National Party (PNP) won 42 of the 63 seats in the House of Representatives in the 2011 general election, and with fresh polls likely to be called this year, the party has been putting together its slate of candidates as it seeks to hold off the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), which has won only one of the last six general elections.
It appears that junior tourism minister Damion Crawford has called curtains on his parliamentary career after one term, having not applied to the PNP to continue serving as an MP. Some seven persons, including councillors Pat Morgan (Dallas) and Artnell McDonald (Kintyre), are now expected to vie for the seat.
NOT INDICTMENT ON LEADERSHIP
East Portland's Dr Lynvale Bloomfield, one of the MPs being challenged, said the move to oust him is not an indictment on his leadership of the constituency.
"Unfortunately, at this time, other people have other agenda and think that they need to step in and change things. I am not convinced that it is in keeping with the best practice that we have to adopt, but nevertheless, it is a reality," Bloomfield said.
A date is yet to be set for Andrea Moore to challenge Bloomfield for the right to represent the constituency.
Two other persons - Dr Dennis Minott and Senator Norman Grant - had also expressed interest in representing the seat, but Grant failed to appear before a regional appraisal committee. Minott was not approved to go forward with a challenge.
"I think the delegates will understand that we need continuity and we need to be strong and unified at this time. The broad masses of the PNP are not in support of such a challenge and will not support the persons coming forward," Bloomfield said.
Bloomfield won the seat in 2011 by 1,246 votes, improving the margin from 795 in 2007.
Dr Donald Rhodd had won the traditionally strong PNP seat by 2,301 votes in 2002 before experiencing a precipitous decline in his margin in the next elections.
"I think we will be winning by a much bigger margin," Bloomfield said, while adding that the sentiments from the people are that "'we are comfortable with our MP. We are seeing things happening as never before', and therefore, they don't see any need for a challenge."
Special delegates conferences have been organised for September 5 and 6 in the two St Elizabeth constituencies in which there will be contests.
SPIRIT OF DEMOCRACY
In the case of South West St Elizabeth, the meeting to decide between Buchanan and Ewan Stephenson will take place on September 5.
"It is a democratic party, so challenges can come. But due to the fact that we have general elections, which can be called pretty soon, this is not the right time for challenges like these," said Buchanan, whose father, Donald, was MP for the same seat from 1989 to 2007.
"As a true member of the party, I accept the challenge and I will ride over it and go into the general election. Look for a victory for South West St Elizabeth to remain in the columns of the People's National Party," he added.
Buchanan, who emerged from the 2011 general election as the biggest giant killer, having defeated then Cabinet minister Dr Christopher Tufton, was recently re-elected unopposed as the constituency chairman. He overturned Tufton's 1,825 victory margin en route to winning by a slender 13 votes.
The Pryce vs Redman clash is scheduled for September 6. The winner is expected to face the JLP's Peter Sangster.
North East St Elizabeth is considered safe for the PNP. Pryce won it in 2011 by 4,068 votes, up from the 2,138 margin, which Kern Spencer recorded for the party in 2007.
CENTRAL ST JAMES
In the meantime, Central St James MP Lloyd B. Smith could also find himself on the cutting board. Smith said that while he has heard of possible interests in his seat, he is not likely to be challenged.
"I spoke with the general sectary on Friday and I take him at his word. I asked him if I am being challenged and he said no," Smith said.
The deputy Speaker won his seat by 98 votes, defeating the JLP's Heroy Clarke. Two persons, Henry McCurdy and Ashley-Ann Foster, are said to have had an interest in the seat. Gleaner sources say McCurdy floated his name in order to scare Foster, a migrant from East Central St James, out of a contest. Foster has since pulled back.
Challenges were also being planned for two other first-time MPs - Dr Winston Green in South East St Mary and Jolyan Silvera in West St Mary - but the regional appraisal committees turned down the applicants.
In the case of Green, who won his seat by 420 votes, the committee did not find favour with the application of Loran Ferguson.
In West St Mary, Silvera remained the candidate because the appraisal committee also turned down Rudolph Cox and Leon Francis.
- Dr Lynvale Bloomfield (Incumbent)
- Andrea Moore - Failed in 2007 to win West Rural St Andrew.
- Norman Grant XX
- Dr Dennis Minott X
West St Mary
- Jolyan Silvera (Incumbent)
- Rudolph Cox X
- Leon Francis X
North East St Elizabeth
- Raymond Pryce (Incumbent)
- Evon Redman
South East St Mary
- Dr Winston Green (Incumbent)
- Loran Ferguson X
South East St Ann
- Lisa Hanna (Incumbent)
- Lydia Richards
- Patrick Atkinson (Incumbent)
- J.P. Whyte - Failed in 2011 to win North East St Andrew.
- Paul Stewart - Failed in 2011 to win North East St Ann.
South West St Elizabeth
- Hugh Buchanan (Incumbent)
- Ewan Stephenson
X - Turned down by appraisal committee.
XX - Failed to appear before appraisal committee.