Tue | Feb 25, 2020

JLP, PNP sharpen political chess game

Published:Friday | January 17, 2020 | 12:09 AMPaul Clarke/Gleaner Writer
Glasspole Brown, director of elections.
Glasspole Brown, director of elections.

With Municipal Elections (local government elections) constitutionally due in November of this year, the People’s National Party’s (PNP) general secretary is preaching a state of readiness.

Julian Robinson said the party is in a good place should Prime Minister Andrew Holness dissolve Parliament for the general election, or do the unlikely by calling local government elections before the big one.

The only time in the nation’s political history that local government elections were held before a general election was in 1986, according to director of elections Glasspole Brown.

“Remember Mr Seaga had called the snap general election in 1980. Then a parish council election followed and then the general in 1989. But they [political leaders] tend to defer until after the general elections. But with the act now amended, it gives them a framework on how it should be called, which is about the fourth anniversary of the general election,” said Brown.

MAKING PREPARATIONS

When asked about the state of readiness at the Electoral Office of Jamaica, Brown indicated that his office had already started preparations, noting that the EOJ has heard the rumblings and were preparing for all eventualities.

He said that calling an election is the prerogative of the prime minister whenever he sees fit, and as the election machinery, the EOJ has been in preparation mode.

In the meantime, Robinson indicated that the PNP was all but ready for all eventualities should Holness decide to “crack the whip”.

A general election is constitutionally due in 2021.

“For the general elections, we have put our candidates in place. We are working on our manifesto on a platform that will form the basis of our policies. That is far advanced,” Robinson said.

“We are prepared. We are preparing for a local, too, which right now in law is due in November, but if a general is called before, we will be ready. So from our perspective, whether it’s a local or a general, we are doing our preparations to be totally ready,” Robinson said.

In 2016, four hundred and eighty-nine candidates were nominated at established nomination centres across the 63 constituencies.

As they did in the general election earlier that year, the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) swept to victory, winning 130 electoral divisions to the PNP’s 98, or eight councils to the PNP’s four.

The St Thomas Municipal Corporation was left in a five-seat apiece tie while the PNP won the mayoral race in the Municipality of Portmore.

Some 549,577 people voted in the 2016 local government elections in all 14 parishes.

Robinson said that the PNP has a great chance of taking back some of the seats lost in the 2016 local government polls and that he was not perturbed about plans the JLP might have to wrestle other council seats from them, particularly those in the Westmoreland Municipal Council, where the JLP picked up five in 2016.

Head of JLP communications Matthew Samuda told The Gleaner that his party was in the final stages of preparations for both local and general elections.

“Very few candidates are left to be announced, but announcements are imminent. The party is, however, readying itself to ensure it provides the party leader and Prime Minister Andrew Holness a wide window to determine the optimum time for either poll,” said Samuda.

Further, he said the JLP councillors nationally have performed well and provided a higher level of performance than is typically expected and that they are buoyed by the past election results.

“We are confident that we will not only retain the councils where we have a majority, but take control from the PNP in others,” warned Samuda.

paul.clarke@gleanerjm.com