Tue | Nov 20, 2018

St Andrew Eastern: Going down to the wire

Published:Monday | February 22, 2016 | 12:00 AM

Of eight contested elections in this constituency, the People's National Party (PNP) has won four and the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) four, leaving neither party with a historical advantage.

To compound the challenges in forecasting this seat, anthropologist Dr Herbert Gayle noted that the people of St Andrew Eastern sometimes vote independently of the national trend.

"Unlike the people of St Elizabeth South Western, who focus on ensuring that their MP is a part of the Government, the people of St Andrew Eastern have voted in the opposite direction twice (1989 and 2002)," noted Gayle.

Predicting the winner is further compounded by the fact that no candidate in its history has been allowed more than two terms in the seat.


"These three observations imply that the people of St Andrew Eastern place some level of premium on the performance of their candidate," argued Gayle.

"In interviews with political activists of the PNP and JLP, it was obvious that the 'people remove MPs as soon as they become complacent'. The implications are positive for (Andre) Hylton, who has been branded the 'ever-present, responsive MP'," added Gayle as he argued that the two-term syndrome also gives Hylton a trend advantage.

> But Gayle noted that the demographics in the constituency give neither party a clear advantage, as there is no large community or sector that must be controlled to win the seat.

"Certainly, Papine (Hope Tavern, Skyline, Papine road to Gordon Town), Mountain View Road (Hampstead Park, Saunders Road, Jarrett Lane), and August Town are demographically critical - but they do not make up 50 per cent of the constituency," noted Gayle, as he pointed to the political strongholds in the constituency.

"There are only five communities that residents describe as 'nests' - August Town, Cedar Valley Terrace (Standpipe), and Saunders/Jarrett Lane for the PNP; and Hermitage and Hampton Park (Back Bush) for the JLP.

"The majority of residents in these areas are expected to vote based on tradition. This explains why only 16 per cent of respondents from these areas reported that they have no intention of voting in the upcoming election.

"However, these 'traditional' communities make up only 44 per cent of the constituency's population. The majority of the constituency, therefore, are expected to vote based largely on the performance of the candidate; and their apathy is relatively high (25 per cent)," noted Gayle.

According to Gayle, the data show that the people of this constituency reward performance or effort from their candidate and this is the only constituency seat studied by his team where a candidate is ranked second as a primary reason to vote.

"While the JLP will benefit additionally from persons of JLP background wanting to put their party back in power, the PNP will certainly benefit from having a candidate that is considered exceptional by (some) voters of the constituency."

But that is not enough to 'give the seat' to Hylton, as despite the fanfare surrounding him, Gayle noted that the JLP's Fayval Williams has been very focused in reminding the mass of Labourites why they should remain with the party.

She has also questioned whether or not the top-performing MP could have achieved more with the resources available - and has suggested to many that with the same amount of resources, she could have achieved more.

"Given the tremendous mobilising skills of Williams, the prediction of the winner of this seat remains somewhat unsettled," said Gayle