Tue | Nov 21, 2017

JLP confident, PNP cautious - A fight to the end for Monday's crucial polls

Published:Saturday | October 28, 2017 | 12:00 AMChristopher Serju
A flag, placard, painted stone and light pole as well as a banner in Castleton, St Mary speak to the support for Dr Norman Dunn.
The messages leave no doubt as to the favoured party in this section of Annotto Bay, St Mary, as Dr Shane Alexis of the People’s National Party goes up against Dr Norman Dunn, the Jamaica Labour Party’s candidate, for the St Mary South East constituency.
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There was a marked difference in the campaign mood of Comrades and Labourites canvassing throughout the South East St Mary constituency this week, in preparation for Monday's pivotal polls.

The Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) teams, probably buoyed by a survey that shows their candidate Dr Norman Dunn with a comfortable lead over the People's National Party's (PNP) Dr Shane Alexis, seemed confident and complacent, almost to the point of being cocky. The Comrades, on the other hand, seemed to be taking a studied approach, campaign workers checking various lists and consulting before hitting the road.

In the four electoral divisions - Castleton, Belfield, Annotto Bay and Richmond - meetings are on in earnest with nothing left to chance but for the die-hard supporters who are sure the issue is already settled.

"Dr Dunn win already," a supporter in Castleton told The Gleaner.

The fact that he lost the 2016 general elections by a mere five votes gives her confidence that the pharmacist will prevail this time around, especially since his opponent is new to the political arena.

At School Hill in the division on Tuesday, six Comrades gathered at a shop with lists in hand discussing strategy. On Thursday, they got a major boost when Alexis walked the constituency and had a one-on-one interaction, with the hope of winning over undecided voters as well JLP supporters. It is this interaction with people that will make the difference, one campaign worker advised.

"We don't have the strength of money, and we don't make promises," she declared in summing up the difference in campaign strategies.

Meanwhile in Lewis Store, it was a festive group of Labourites who engaged constituents, pointing to the roadway which had started as a sure sign of their party delivering on its promise of prosperity. Their message to the voters - keep the prosperity going by voting JLP.

Over in Annotto Bay, both parties have clearly defined turf, with the areas marked by bunting, painting, placards and posters of orange or green colour.

 

Delayed overseas trip

 

Ashford Stewart should have gone overseas, but delayed his trip just to play his part in ensuring that Alexis beats Dunn. He and other supporters point to the failure of the pharmacist to invest in the town of his birth, despite claiming to own nine pharmacies. They cited his inability to connect with area people as a sign of his disconnect with constituents.

Despite this, in the general election of February 25, 2016, Dunn won the Richmond Division by 1,621 votes to the 1,465 for Dr Winston Green, when 59 per cent of the 5,243 registered voters exercised their rights at 26 polling stations. Voters at the other 23 polling stations in the Castleton division again gave Dunn the edge - 1,720 votes to 1,128 for Green, a 54 per cent turnout of the 5,217 voters.

It was in the Belfield division that Dunn fared worst, getting 1,228 votes with 1,712 going to Green. In Annotto Bay, he got 2,750 ballots to the 3,019 for Green.

Everyone anxiously awaits the results of Monday's by-elections.

christopher.serju@gleanerjm.com