Sun | Dec 17, 2017

This is it! - SE St Mary holds most interest in trio of by-elections today

Published:Monday | October 30, 2017 | 12:00 AMArthur Hall
Dr Norman Dunn
Dr Shane Alexis
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It has been a cash-fuelled by-election season.

The Government has admitted spending some $250 million on infrastructure works in the constituency, but the Opposition says the expenditure has been closer to $500 million.

But that is just the start of it. What neither the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) nor the People's National Party (PNP) will say is how much they have spent to woo persons to place their votes beside Dr Norman Dunn or Dr Shane Alexis.

"We have spent a tidy sum, but it pales in comparison to what the JLP has spent, and don't tell me you haven't seen them," said one senior PNP official yesterday.

"They are going around offering people everything to vote or not vote, and we are not into that," added the PNP official, who asked not to be named.

It was a similar story from a source close to the leadership of the JLP, who spoke on condition that he not be named.

"They are spending, we are spending, and we accept that it takes cash to care, so we have had to spend," said the JLP official.

"What we have found is that when a man would work for $5,000 in the 2016 general election, he is asking for $15,000 and $20,000 now," added the senior Labourite.

The massive expenditure is not surprising to political analyst and Gleaner columnist Mark Wignall. "Both political parties have so much at stake, so both parties would go full throttle to secure a win," said Wignall, as he noted that the prize is more than a seat in the House of Representatives.

A victory for Dunn would give the JLP a three-seat majority in Parliament and provide Prime Minister Andrew Holness with more room to manoeuvre, including the Cabinet reshuffle he has hinted at. A defeat would not be fatal to Holness, but it would be a painful slap on the wrist over the performance of his administration since it was elected in 2016.

For the PNP, a victory for Alexis would be the fillip it needs after its narrow defeat in 2016, and an indicator that it is on track with its performance in opposition. If it fails to hang on to the seat it has lost only once since 1989, that could be a body blow for the party and its recently elected president Dr Peter Phillips.

"The JLP has been all action on the ground, and I would be surprised at a PNP victory," Wignall said yesterday, even as he emphasised that it will come down to which party brings out the majority of the 25,251 persons registered to vote in the constituency.

"There could be rain, and the weather will play a part, but I think both parties are prepared for that. What will determine the turnout is the mobilisation and which party can turn support into votes," added Wignall.

The internal polls conducted by the JLP sees it headed for a comfortable victory, while the PNP polls show its candidate closing a four percentage-point deficit one month ago to be in a dead heat going into today's election.

By 8 o'clock this evening, the nation should know who has been elected to succeed the late Dr Winston Green, who won the seat for the PNP by a mere five votes the last time around.

arthur.hall@gleanerjm.com