JLP keeps seat - Businessman Nigel Clarke victorious at polls
Businessman and scholar Dr Nigel Clarke yesterday ensured that the St Andrew North West constituency remained in the column of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) when he won convincingly, defeating the People's National Party's (PNP) Keisha Hayle in the by-election.
Results of the preliminary count show that Clarke polled 4,448, or 61 per cent of the vote, to Hayle's 2,812, or 39 per cent.
The win has given the JLP a comfortable cushion in the House of Representatives, which remains at 33-30 margin.
At the counting centre in the Pembroke Hall Community Centre, JLP leader, Prime Minister Andrew Holness, was elated at the win, which was not unexpected. He publicly thanked party supporters and election-day workers, and promised to give Clarke the full backing of the Government with the rehabilitation of the road network in the constituency.
"Today, as elected member of parliament by the democratic will and choice of the people of St Andrew North Western, from here on I devote my energies, my skills and my talents, towards advancing the interest of the people of the constituency," said an elated Clarke after he was confirmed as the winner.
He said during three weeks of intense campaigning, he was welcomed by the people of the constituency.
"I have been humbled by the warmth of the reception I have received and the sincerity by which it was given. Today is about the people of the constituency, who came out in their numbers from all over the constituency and they emphatically expressed their will, and that's what today is about," said Clarke.
Clarke, who ran a national, as well as ground, campaign, was expected to win the seat held by the now-retired Derrick Smith since 1989.
"We expect that we will win today", said JLP General Secretary Dr Horace Chang, who spoke to The Gleaner from the Meadowbrook High School location where he, along with other party top brass, gathered to assess the proceedings in late afternoon.
"I hope we win by more than a thousand votes," said JLP Member of Parliament for St Andrew North Eastern Delroy Chuck, who suggested a turnout below that figure would be a "disaster" for the party.
The Government spent $112 million in the constituency on road repairs to sections not rehabilitated for years during the stewardship of Smith.
The Electoral Office of Jamaica (EOJ) said the voter turnout was just over 18 per cent, which played into the usual low voter turnout in by-elections. The general election of 2016 saw a mere 41 per cent of eligible votes exercise their franchise.
Meanwhile, the Electoral Office of Jamaica (EOJ) reported that it was a good day for the Elector Identification and Ballot Issuing System, which was used at all polling stations. EOJ boss Orrette Fisher told The Gleaner's that "there were no reported issues" for the polls.
However, the day was not without incident, particularly in Maverley. Chaos ensued about 10 a.m. as gunfire rang out in the vicinity of West Main Drive and Grenmeade Road, metres from the polling stations. It was later reported that the shots were fired by members of a police party trying to apprehend a wanted man. It was a sign of things to come.
Tempers began to flare outside the polling station with regular skirmishes and testy exchanges between PNP and JLP supporters. In one instance, outdoor agents had to restrain two females, who, after trading expletives, started a brawl.
Police and military personnel responded by swarming the area, blocking off around 200 metres of West Main Drive on either side, leading to the polling station.
Opposition Leader Peter Phillips was the first political bigwig to make an appearance, greeting party supporters to the chant of his name. One by one, ministers of government, opposition spokespersons and members of parliament passed through the community, each arrival seemingly stirring the crowd more than the previous one.
All in all, election-day activities were snail-pace, Mavarley proving the only spark.
Syranno Baines contributed to this story