Mon | Dec 18, 2017

High-stakes battle looms - Voters to go to the polls in three constituencies on October 30

Published:Monday | October 2, 2017 | 12:00 AMArthur Hall

It will be one of the most crucial by-elections in Jamaica's recent political history when voters in St Mary South East go to the polls on Monday, October 30.

At the same time, voters in St Andrew South and St Andrew South West will also go to the polls on that date.

Nomination day for the three constituencies, which have lost representatives in Parliament either through resignation or death, will be on Monday, October 9.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness announced the dates yesterday during a Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) mass meeting in Annotto Bay, the epicentre of St Mary South East, where the real battle will take place.

In recent political history, parliamentary by-elections have, at times, represented a test of the political temperature such as St Ann North East in March 2001, where the JLP's Shahine Robinson beat the People's National Party's (PNP) Carol Jackson in what was believed to be a safe PNP seat.

They have, in other cases, been mere formality, such as Westmoreland Central in December 2014, where the PNP's Dwayne Vaz romped home over the JLP's Faye Reid-Jacobs.

This time around, it is also being seen as a formality in the two Corporate Area seats, where the PNP's Dr Angela Brown Burke (St Andrew South West) and Mark Golding (St Andrew South) are expecting to be elected with token resistance from the JLP's candidates.

Not so in the St Mary seat, where the JLP's Dr Norman Dunn and the PNP's Dr Shane Alexis are expected to have a high-stakes battle.

A victory for Dunn would move the JLP majority in the House of Representatives to three - with 33 seats to the PNP's 30. That would give Holness breathing room, having spent the last 19 months governing with a wafer-thin margin.

In the meantime, a victory for Alexis would maintain the status quo and suggest to the Opposition that it has at least held, if not made up, ground since being rejected by voters in February 2016.

... Dunn, Alexis seek first trip to Gordon House as MPs

St Mary South East was a JLP bastion for years, with Alva Ross securing victory after victory after it was created in 1967. The seat did not go to the PNP until 1989, when Harry Douglas arrived on the scene.

Since then, the PNP has held the seat in every election except 2007, when the JLP's Tarn Peralto got home by 34 votes.

It was back to PNP orange in 2011, when Dr Winston Green secured victory by 420 votes

Green retained the seat in 2016 by a mere five votes, but that victory was disputed by Dunn and was still before the court when Green died recently.

Now Dunn gets another chance to take a seat in Parliament for the first time, while Alexis also seeks to make his first trip to Gordon House as a member.