Both parties confident of local government victory
Local government minister and Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) deputy leader, Desmond McKenzie, expects the results of the November 28 local government elections to go the way of the general election - with the party winning the majority of the 228 divisions.
They currently have 75 divisions, with the opposition People's National Party (PNP) holding 151, with a tie in Trelawny.
McKenzie said he was confident of the party's victory, coming from behind in the November 28 polls, with the JLP controlling only one council and the PNP controlling 13 and the Portmore Municipality. The former Kingston mayor and councillor for the Tivoli Gardens division will be banking on local government history, which has supported the general election results - except for the 1986 local polls, in which the JLP, which was in power, lost the councilship due in part to its support of the Grenada revolution in 1983.
"We are having a general campaign and I know it sounds impossible to say that you are targeting all, but one of the things we have to appreciate is that we have representatives in all divisions. So we have to pay attention to all," McKenzie told The Sunday Gleaner.
He said he did not expect a walkover in the quest for victory, but there were some priority councils. He said in the last election, some divisions were lost by small numbers of electors, which were encouraging signs. He now believes that the party is more organised and will have the momentum on the ground.
"We have the momentum. We have everything that is going. I can't predict numbers, because I am not in the game of predicting, but we have a one-seat majority and we are the government. The confidence level is very high and there is no way that we will not come out with the majority of councils," declared McKenzie.
"There are going to be priorities. We know what it is that we have targeted and we are working accordingly to ensure victory. Remember, now we actually have no parish councils."
He continued, "There are prized municipalities that one would want, and we consider all of them to be prized. What we are doing in terms of our programme of campaigning is widespread and it involves on-the-ground contact, identifying almost all the municipal councils, looking at the divisions, because the figures coming from the last municipal elections, they were more than encouraging."
He said all the JLP's councillors and caretaker councillors have undergone rigorous training sessions.
ELECTION IS WAR
Meanwhile, the opposition PNP, which was in government during the March 2012 local government elections, said it will be seeking to defend the councils it now controls.
The party's national campaign director Noel Arscott, who is the spokesman on the portfolio, said all candidates are in place.
"We are going to pull out the stops to defend what we have. We have them already, so they will have to take them. But we are not going to roll over and say because they are the government it usually goes that way. No. Elections is like a war and, therefore, we have to defend what we have," declared Arscott.
He said the party will be running a local campaign and will be seeking to hammer home the failures of the Government, and the failed promises on which it came into power.
"The economic situation in the country is biting. They have come to office on promises which they have not kept, and the implementation of the $1.5m increase in income tax threshold should have been done without any additional taxation. Then there is the situation with the dollar. So really, they have not delivered on their promises," argued Arscott.
He said the PNP is working on the ground but noted that traditionally voting trends were lower than in general elections. This was not singular to Jamaica, he said, and he expects it to continue, "but enough to keep the PNP ahead".
Like the JLP, Arscott said the PNP has divisions which it has targeted.
The last local government elections were held on March 26, 2012, which directly elected 228 divisional councillors and the mayor of the municipality of Portmore. Since Independence in 1962, local government elections have been held in 1966, 1969, 1974, 1977, 1981, 1986, 1990, 1998, 2003, 2007, and 2012.
Local government elections have been due since March 2015. In the upcoming elections, nomination day is this Friday, November 11, before Jamaicans head to the polls on November 28.