Sat | Apr 20, 2019

Battle for NW St Andrew | Clarke starts favourite with Hayle looking to upset

Published:Monday | March 5, 2018 | 12:00 AMErica Virtue/Senior Gleaner Writer

Electors numbering 30,216 will be eligible to vote in today's by-election in St Andrew North West, an increase of 1,187 more than were eligible ahead of the February 2016 general election which was won comfortably by Derrick Smith on a Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) ticket.

Today the voters will chose between the JLP's Dr Nigel Clarke and primary-school principal Keisha Hayle, who is representing the People's National Party (PNP).

Political watchers are expecting a low voter turnout, with the JLP expected to keep the seat it has held since 1980.

A mere 41 per cent of the 29,029 eligible voters exercised their franchise in the 2016 general elections. That result showed Smith receiving 7,055 or 59 per cent of the votes polled, while the opposition People's National Party (PNP)'s Donovan Isaacs received 39 per cent, with 168 ballots rejected.

Before he resigned, Smith had held the seat for the past 29 years, spanning seven general elections since 1989. Both candidates have given their word to remain in the constituency no matter today's outcome.

Speaking last week on the Power 106 programme 'Independent Talk', Hayle said her entry into politics and the constituency was not a fluke.

"If I don't win, if the people don't give me the mandate now, please be assured that Keisha Hayle won't leave this constituency, because I have been there for 40 years. It is very dear to me.

"So I will be continuing going to your community meetings, I will be continuing coming in and knock and sit down on your verandahs and talk to you, engage you, to ensure that you know that I am a person who wants to represent you. I want to sit and share our concerns and we will continue to work together to ensure that North West St Andrew is the best constituency to live in Jamaica," said Hayle.




For his part, Clarke, speaking on the programme, said he was all in and committed.

"I have for a long time served Jamaica in a number of capacities. I have served Jamaica in the public sector, where I have been chairman of the board of various public sector institutions ... . My service to Jamaica does not begin with this campaign. I am a diehard Jamaican who passionately believes in our power and potential ... , " said Clarke.

He said although it was a by-election, he was very confident that having done the work, he would be victorious.