Mon | Oct 19, 2020

GREENLAND - Holness’ JLP sweeps away PNP 49-14

Published:Friday | September 4, 2020 | 7:22 AMJovan Johnson/Senior Staff Reporter
Andrew Holness addresses the media at a Jamaica Labour Party press conference on Thursday. The JLP beat the PNP 49-14 on election day.
Andrew Holness addresses the media at a Jamaica Labour Party press conference on Thursday. The JLP beat the PNP 49-14 on election day.

In just a decade, Andrew Holness has achieved political glory in becoming the most powerful force in modern Jamaican politics, retiring some of his rival elders while humiliatingly condemning Jamaica’s oldest political party into an abyss with its top-tier leadership decimated.

Last night, the Jamaica Labour Party’s (JLP’s) leader admitted that he was expecting 42 seats – the threshold needed in the House of Representatives to make key constitutional changes without opposition support – in his bid to lead the party to its first consecutive contested election win in more than half a century.

He’s got more than what he calculated as preliminary results from Thursday’s election show the JLP with 49 seats to the People’s National Party’s (PNP’s) 14.

But, while he quickly acknowledged the coronavirus pandemic that shadowed the country’s 18th general election, Holness made it clear that the “overwhelming majority” was a signal to the party not to become arrogant.

He framed this in the context of the pandemic and corruption, the stain of which he said no one could “hide” from, owing to the several allegations dogging his administration, which could prevent some from being in the new Cabinet that will soon start taking shape.

“Tonight, the victor is the people of Jamaica,” said Holness at his party’s headquarters to a small audience, quite unlike the usual festivities that characterised past victory celebrations and speeches, a bow to the signs of the COVID-19 era.

“I am obviously happy to have won, but I want to assure all of you that I do carry this burden with great consideration of the expectations of not just those who elected us but those who are looking on us for future decisions,” he said.

The 48-year-old, who is Jamaica’s first prime minister born after Independence, having first taken the oath of office in October 2011, said he was well aware that the scrutiny will be great.

“In our last Government, the narrative of corruption dogged us, and it is not something that we can hide away from, and I want to be clear because there are many persons who will now be assuming state authority who may not have the understanding as to how that authority should be used,” said Holness.

“They will note clearly that this Government does not stand for corruption.”

He also slapped the PNP, arguing that the victory was a clear sign that Jamaicans preferred the more “realistic” policy options.

But he did not lord the defeat over his rival, instead striking a charitable tone in speaking about Dr Peter Phillips, who now has the unenviable distinction of being the only PNP president to not become prime minister.

“It was very sportsmanlike and very dignified and really reflects well on our politics,” he said of the concession call Phillips made to him.

Last night’s victory was the largest margin for a political party since 1997, when then Prime Minister P.J. Patterson led the PNP to a 50-10 win. The last time the JLP won this big was in 1980.

The JLP’s successful assault in the PNP bastions of Westmoreland, Kingston Central, St Catherine, and Manchester Southern kept Labourite lips busy at Belmont Road and at barricades along the street to keep away excited supporters where the occasional bells and vuvuzelas could be heard.

Holness said many of those results were surprising. But he said the real surprise, so far, did not involve a seat the party had claimed, at least for now – St Ann South Eastern.

“I think the Lisa Hanna seat is a big surprise,” he told The Gleaner.

The preliminary count showed Hanna, the PNP’s spokesperson, who campaigned that the constituency was ‘Sweetah wid Lisa’, polling 5,124, keeping Delroy Granston at bay by just 14 votes.

The PNP went into the election defending 29 seats but, after the dust settled, was able to cling on to just 14.

The other survivors were Dr Peter Phillips, who, maybe in prophecy, had signalled early Thursday that he would step down if the party lost; Dr Morais Guy (St Mary Central); Dr Angela Brown Burke (St Andrew South Western); Phillip Paulwell (Kingston Eastern and Port Royal); Anthony Hylton (St Andrew Western); Julian Robinson (St Andrew South Eastern); Fitz Jackson (St Catherine Southern); Natalie Neita (St Catherine North Central); Denise Daley (St Catherine Eastern); Mikael Phillips (Manchester North Western); Mark Golding (St Andrew Southern); Hugo Graham (St Catherine North Western); and Lothian Cousins (Clarendon South Western).

Shock results for the JLP included Manchester Central, where Peter Bunting was shipped out, as promised, by Rhoda Crawford; Dr Dayton Campbell from St Ann North Western, who’s a major feather in the JLP’s hat; and Dr Wykeham McNeill, the mild-mannered vice-president who was left stunned in Westmoreland Western.

In providing the latest update, the Electoral Office of Jamaica confirmed that the overall turnout was approximately 37 per cent – the lowest in electoral history since the 1983 uncontested election. It was 48.37 per cent in the 2016 general election.

At 10:40 p.m., the JLP had won 406,764 of the popular votes, while the PNP had won 305,157. A total of 1,161 votes went to independent candidates and third parties.

The final counts will start tomorrow.

jovan.johnson@gleanerjm.com