Sun | Sep 24, 2017

FROM THE ARCHIVES: When they called it ... revisiting election announcements #JaVotes2016

Published:Sunday | January 31, 2016 | 1:34 PM
PNP President Portia Simpson Miller arrives for a mass meeting in Race Course, Clarendon late last year.

The history of calling elections in Jamaica has over the past 60 years evolved from the understated parliamentary announcements and even press releases, to declarations at massive party meetings attended by thunderous applause from partisan supporters.

Here is how the general elections since 1959 were announced:

1959: Chief Minister, Norman Manley, announced the July 28, 1959 General Elections on May 28, 1959 in the House of Representatives. Elections were constitutionally due January 1960. Nomination day was set for July 6. The Gleaner reported then that Manley's announcement was greeted by cheers from both sides of the House.  The elections were to be held for a forty-five member House of Representatives as provided for under the new Constitution — an increase of 13 over the then membership of thirty-two.

1962: A February 11 Gleaner article reported that at a quarter to one o’clock today, Premier Manley issued to the Jamaican Press, embargoed until midnight, London time, the statement that Jamaica's general election to choose its first Government under Independence will be held on Tuesday, April 10.

1967: Donald Sangster, as head of government, called election for February 21.

1972: Prime Minister Hugh Shearer called the general election for February 29. He made the announcement during a public meeting where the St William Grant Park in downtown Kingston is now located.

1976: Michael Manley called the election for December 15.

1980: Prime Minister, Michael Manley, announced the October 30 election date on October 5 at a People's National Party rally in Charles Square, Montego Bay. Mr. Manley made the announcement to a large crowd of PNP supporters at the end of the party's two-day annual conference in the western Jamaican city. "I have the greatest imaginable pleasure in telling you that we shall have a Nomination Day, and that the Nomination Day shall be next week Tuesday, the 14th of October. "And the Election Day shall be Thursday, the 30th of October."

1983: Three years after leading the JLP to a general election win, Edward Seaga, announced a snap election for December 15. The decision was made at a meeting of the Cabinet and published to the media later. The People's National Party did not contest the poll. 

1989: On January 15, Prime Minister Edward Seaga announced the February 9 election date at a political rally in Kingston, which climaxed an islandwide motorcade mounted by his party, the Jamaica Labour Party. Gleaner report: Now it is time for the bell to ring," Mr Seaga declared last night, as he named the date at the end of a one hour speech to the wild cheering and bell-ringing of the crowd.

1993: PNP president and Prime Minister P.J. Patterson announced elections for March 30, climaxing a massive rally of the People's National Party at Half -Way Tree square on March 9.

1997: P.J. Patterson called his second election for December 18 at another massive rally in Half-Way Tree Square on November 26.

2002: It was his third time calling an election and on September 22, P.J. Patterson named the date for October 16. He did so again in Half-Way Tree at a mass rally that replaced the public session of the PNP’s 64th annual conference. "Tomorrow morning I shall, as Prime Minister of Jamaica, write a letter to the Governor- General and I shall advise him that it is time to dissolve Parliament with immediate effect," the Prime Minister said.

2007: Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller used a mass rally in Half-Way Tree to announce the election date for August 27. But the date had to be pushed back to September 3 following the passage of Hurricane Dean. 

2011: Andrew Holness, Prime Minister for fewer than three months, used a mass rally in Mandeville, Manchester on December 4, to announce that Jamaicans will go to polls on December 29 for Jamaica’s 16th general election since Universal Adult Suffrage in 1944. “Remember, I told you we were not going to trouble your Christmas?” Holness told the crowd just after announcing the date. “I want you to have a happy Christmas, a merry Christmas. So we break for the Christmas period, but by the 28th you back on the road, and by the 29th you put your vote in the box, happy New Year, government in place, back on track, ready for work.”