Lack of enthusiasm out west, low turnout
Unlike in the general election earlier this year, there was an absence of energy and enthusiasm across western Jamaica yesterday as electors stayed away from the polls in large numbers, giving the process in the region a rather eerie look.
"Based on what I have been hearing, the turnout is somewhat low, but I suppose that is the norm where local government elections are concerned," said Senator Charles Sinclair, who heads the Jamaica Labour Party's (JLP) machinery in western Jamaica. "We will just have to continue to work to change the perception that the local government elections are not important."
In St James, where the opposition People's National Party (PNP) started the day defending a 13-4 majority in the municipal corporation (formerly parish council), the most significant feature was the robust police-military presence in several volatile communities. Interestingly, one man was shot dead and a schoolboy injured in the ongoing violence that has been plaguing the parish.
In communities like Green Pond and Glendevon, many youngsters staged unsanctioned street parties while turning their backs on the electoral process.
"Dem have to put 'lotto scam' on the ballot if they want our vote," one young man told The Gleaner in Green Pond. "Scamming is our best representative round here. Look how many communities it is taking care of. That is my member of parliament and councillor."
In Hanover, where the PNP entered the day with a 6-1 majority, the only real energy was in Cauldwell division, where the PNP's Sheridan Samuels; and PNP defector-turned-independent candidate Dahlia Mitchell had emerged as the main contenders.
"I am expecting a stiff battle to the finish line between Samuels and Mitchell," said businessman Craig Oates, a member of the PNP hierarchy in Hanover.
"It will all go down to who can bring out the most late voters."
In Westmoreland, which saw the PNP sweeping 14-0 in 2012, the final count had the party losing five divisions yesterday.
"No better herring, no better barrel," a woman told The Gleaner in the Cornwall Mountain division, in rejecting both the PNP and JLP.
"We have horrible roads and inconsistent water supply and we rarely see any politicians in these parts ... . They just want to use us."
In Trelawny and St Elizabeth, the voters were seemingly not motivated enough to come out in big numbers, and, like the other western parishes, basically stayed away in significant numbers.