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Stabroek News

Douglas in tough fight to retain seat
published: Tuesday | August 28, 2007

Residents of Annotto Bay in South East St. Mary argue that their MP has not done much to improve the state of their community. - Ian Allen/Staff Photographer

OLD FOX Harry Douglas, who had announced that he would not be seeking re-election after four terms as Member of Parliament for South East St. Mary, is facing an unceremonial exit from politics, according to a recent Gleaner-commissioned Bill Johnson poll.

The 64-year-old Douglas, who last year told The Gleaner that this election would be his last shot, is being challenged by the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) candidate Tarn Peralto. Douglas won the seat by 365 votes in the 2002 General Election. The poll, conducted on August 12, found that Douglas and Peralto are locked in a statistical dead-heat as both race to represent the constituency.

Voters support douglas

Of registered voters sampled in the constituency, Johnson and his team of researchers found that 41 per cent of registered voters would support Douglas against 40 per cent who said they would vote for Peralto. With a margin of error of plus or minus five per cent, this is an insignificant advantage for the PNP candidate.Johnson's poll, conducted among 480 residents in South East St. Mary, a seat Douglas has represented since 1989, found that nine per cent of the sample were undecided while two per cent refused. Eight per cent said they would not vote.

Douglas, despite being a long-serving MP, has other numbers stacked against him and seems to be suffering from what Johnson calls "an anti-incumbency behaviour among many people".

When residents responded to the question, 'If the election was being held today and Harry Douglas was the PNP candidate and Tarn Peralto was the JLP candidate, whom would you most want to win?', 48 per cent said Peralto and 39 per cent said Douglas. Thirteen per cent were undecided.

Teaching a lesson

In 2002, commentators had suggested the PNP would have been unseated in the constituency, but Douglas said he would have taught Peralto a lesson in political organisation which he did by winning the election. Douglas won the 1997 election by 1,494 votes increasing his margin from 413 in the 1993 polls. He won his first election by 843 votes after beating Alva Ross in 1989.

Like in 2002, Douglas is faced with a mountainous task if he is to make his way back to Gordon House.

A whopping 95 per cent of persons sampled have made up their minds as to whether Douglas deserves to be elected and the numbers are stacked against him. In fact, 60 per cent of the sample said someone else should be elected as MP while 35 per cent said 'Beep Beep' deserves to be re-elected. His unfavourable rating in the constituency stands at 57 per cent among those who know him (91 per cent of the sample) and seven per cent among those who don't know him but have heard of him.

Conversely, 35 per cent of those who know Douglas has a favourable opinion of him and one per cent of those who have heard of him has a favourable opinion of the long-serving politician.

( L - R ) Douglas, Peralto

Regardless of how you feel about your local candidates for Parliament, if an election is held today, who would you vote for?

PNP: 41%

JLP: 40%

Undecided: 9%

Refused: 2%

Would not vote: 8%

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