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Stabroek News

St Elizabeth South West always picks winners
published: Sunday | April 22, 2007

Garwin Davis, Sunday Gleaner Writer

Donald Buchanan, retiring MP, St. Elizabeth SW. - File

If history should mean anything - Dr. Phinn or no Dr. Phinn - the party standings in St. Elizabeth South West, according to a recent Gleaner-commissioned Bill Johnson poll, do not bode well for the governing People's National Party (PNP) and its quest for a record fifth consecutive term in office.

In every election since the country gained independence in 1962, St. Elizabeth South West has gone with the party that ends up forming the government. As a matter of fact, 1959 - the year the constituency was created - was the only time it had gone to the party in opposition, and barely so. The PNP's E.V.V. Allen lost by the smallest of whiskers (five votes) to the Jamaica Labour Party's (JLP) C.D. Wright .

In 1962, when the JLP formedthe government, Wright was again returned as MP, following his victory over the PNP's W.M. Forde-Walters. In 1967, he made it three from three, by easily brushing aside the challenge of the PNP's H.B. Crawford. It was also the second consecutive general election victory for the JLP.

Michael Manley era

Then came 1972 and the Michael Manley era. In the PNP's return to power, a young lawyer named Melford Brown would finally send Wright back to the peaceful confines of private life by defeating him by some 944 votes. Wright's shot at a last hurrah was again rebuffed by Brown in the PNP's victory in 1976, this time by a reduced margin of just over 200 votes.

Enter Donald Buchanan in 1980. In what was a massive electoral defeat for the PNP, Buchanan lost the St. Elizabeth South West seat by an embarrassing 3,020 votes to the JLP's Donald Sangster. There was a snap election in 1983 which the PNP boycotted. However, in 1989, Buchanan would not only avenge the Sangster defeat but would later put together a string of four consecutive victories (1989-2002), enabling him to become the longest-serving MP in the history of the constituency. The PNP was also returned to power on each of those occasions.

Buchanan not helping

Buchanan, however, based on Johnson's March 10 poll numbers, does not seem to be helping Redwood much. In fact, when the numbers are analysed closely, the four-term MP, despite his years of experience as a government minister, could be more of a liability to Redwood's campaign than an asset. Fifty-nine per cent of those polled say they have an unfavourable opinion of Buchanan, as opposed to 26 per cent who say they have a favourable opinion of him; 15 per cent say they had no opinion of him whatsoever.

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