Sun | Aug 20, 2017

St Elizabeth South Western: Always backing the winner

Published:Monday | February 22, 2016 | 2:00 AM

Apart from one occasion (1959), the person who is elected member of parliament for St Elizabeth South Western has represented the party that eventually forms the Government.

In 12 contested elections in the constituency, the People's National Party (PNP) has won seven and the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) five.

Despite the marginal wins in this constituency, the people tend not to "waste votes on losers".

"We vote based on tradition and for the winner," said one elector.

READ THE GAYLE REPORT ON ST ELIZABETH SOUTH WEST HERE: http://bit.do/marginalseats

A 72-year-old female resident of Black River explained: "We vote half with our heart, and half with our brain. You call the heart part tradition; and I figure you call the brain part being smart. We always ensure that our MP is part of the Government in power, for we need the development down here. It's simple."

That preoccupation with winners gives the PNP's Hugh Buchanan and the JLP's Floyd Green an almost equal opportunity for victory.

But Buchanan, the sitting MP, enters the race with an advantage.

"The JLP cannot win in this constituency unless the PNP communities give up some of their potential votes. The data collected here do not suggest that the apathy in the PNP communities is enough to give the JLP a chance," said anthropologist Dr Herbert Gayle.

For those watching the counting of the votes Thursday evening, Gayle warns that any early surge will not be reason to celebrate, as persons will have to check carefully where the votes are coming from.

"A transect across the constituency shows that it is made up of PNP communities in the west and east, with the JLPs stuck in the middle and on the south coast.

"Brompton, the most western community, has a traditional PNP majority. This is followed by Black River, also with a PNP majority. The JLPs become visible at the beachside village of Parrotee, and this trend continues along the coast to the resort village of Treasure Beach.

"Mountainside in the north also has a strong showing of JLPs, and this trend cuts back south to Barbary Hall, then thins out as one travels east through Watchwell. At Newell, the PNPs re-emerge in large numbers through Pedro Cross and up the hills to Seaview," added Gayle.

The PNP areas account for 63 per cent of the constituency's 9,000 households, with 54 per cent of the voters in these areas saying they will vote for the party.

"In my family, we will even vote for a PNP dog!" one woman told the research team.

Another woman with nine votes for Hugh Buchanan in her extended family said: "Nine of us getting up, dress together, assemble from the three houses you see in this yard, pray together, then go vote PNP - not for Hugh, not even for Portia that we love - for PNP. I am talking about the PNP that the man Michael Manley set up and leave give all of us in this country who have ambition."

According to Gayle, those who will or might vote JLP will do so mainly to trigger change against the Government or the MP.

"The data show that Green is more effective in getting persons to vote based on candidacy than Buchanan. This is not surprising, given almost two-thirds of PNPs simply vote based on tradition.

"Of the 29 persons who interacted with Buchanan directly, eight reported that the interaction had no impact on them, as they were voting based on tradition.

Against that background, Gayle said the raw data indicate a mild advantage for the PNP in that constituency.