….the big surprises that unfolded out west
On account of the People's National Party's (PNP) dominance in the 2011 general election and the prediction that the just-concluded 2016 election would have been very close, some of the results that emerged from Thursday's general election caught even some seasoned pundits by surprise.
First, the exceptional showing by the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) in St James, where they won four of the five seats, including the prized Central St James seat and West Central St James, which was held by Sharon Ffolkes-Abrahams, is a major grab by any stretch of the imagination.
"I really expected Ashley-Ann Foster to beat Heroy Clarke in Central St James, and I also expected Ffolkes-Abrahams to beat back Marlene Malahoo Forte, who is a newcomer to St James politics," said a prominent Montego Bay-based PNP activist who asked not to be named. "I believe Mama P (Portia Simpson Miller) gave away the PNP's momentum when she did not call the election last year and allowed the JLP to settle."
While Derrick Kellier, the only PNP survivor in St James, might have escaped with his seat, at some points on Thursday night, he appeared set for a surprise defeat as the JLP's Homer Davis closed in on him. In the end, Kellier just managed to scrape home by a close 6,236-6,164 margin.
Having failed to win the East Hanover in 2011 with high-profile candidate Paula Kerr-Jarrett, the JLP could not have been bubbling with confidence when it sent out Dave Brown to challenge the PNP's Wynter McIntosh, the sitting mayor of Lucea. To the surprise of many, possibly including Brown, he snatched a good 6,388-6,023 win to send the more seasoned McIntosh packing.
"I am really disappointed with the election results, especially here in East Hanover, where I was expecting a PNP win," said stalwart PNP supporter and businessman Craig Oates. "However, we must respect the wishes of the majority. I hope that the change so many have been clamouring for will materialise."
While the PNP has maintained its stranglehold on Westmoreland, it should be noted that they did not have the usual staggering margins of victory.
While Luther Buchanan was powerful in P.J. Patterson's former East Westmoreland stomping ground, notching a commanding 6,494-3,890 win over Andrea Walters, Wykeham McNeill and Dwayne Vaz both got good runs for their money in West and Central Westmoreland, respectively. McNeill polled 6,622 to upstage ex-cricketer Dixieth Palmer 5,189; while Vaz polled 10,023 to George Wright's 8,844 - modest returns based on past PNP performances in Westmoreland.
Despite failing in his bid to win the PNP's North Trelawny stronghold, Dennis Meadows created somewhat of a surprise, holding the PNP's margin of victory to under a thousand, which is a quite remarkable feat considering the margins on his previous two attempts.