Battle for youth vote in Portland - Obama strategies to come into play

Published: Wednesday | March 4, 2009

Daraine Luton, Staff Reporter


THE YOUTH vote could hold the key to the outcome in the March 23 by-election in West Portland.

Nearly 6,000 of the approximately 18,500 persons registered to vote in West Portland are in the age group 18-32.

Warren Newby, president of Generation 2000 (G2K), the youth arm of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), told The Gleaner that the group of young Labourites had learnt a lot from the Obama campaign and would be adopting some of his campaign methods.

"When you look at what happened with Obama, there are a lot of things that we have learnt and we want to adapt them to the local situation. But at the same time we have some novel ideas that we are going to try out," Newby said.

Massive success

G2K managed the ad campaign of the JLP in the 2007 general election. The advertisement assault was hailed by many communication experts as a massive success over those produced by the People's National Party (PNP).

The JLP won the election 32-28 in the 60-seat Parliament but the subsequent disqualification of Vaz by the Court of Appeal has forced a by-election in West Portland. The election will be held on March 23.

Vaz will face off with the PNP's Kenneth Rowe for the seat.

Ricardo James, general secretary of the PNPYO, told The Gleaner that the group will be working alongside Basil Waite, the party's national organiser, to win the Balcarres division.

The PNP lost all four divisions in the 2007 general election but fared best in the Balcarres division where it lost by a margin of 84 votes. The JLP also won the division in the local government election which Doreen Forbes contested for the party, polling 1,466 votes there to Forbes' 1,278 - a 188-vote win.

"The last general election was won by the youth vote going to the JLP. They wanted to have a chance to experience what the JLP government was like and we believe that having been in government for nearly two years, the young people are dissatisfied and they are now convinced that the JLP is incapable of delivering on its manifesto," James said.

Unlike G2K, which will be involved in the production of advertisements for Vaz, the PNPYO said its role would be strictly confined to the ground battle of getting out the vote.

But Newby has said that the campaign innovations that the G2K will undertake will not cost a fortune.

"Our efforts will be very cost-effective ... . There are some exercises that we are going to be carrying out that I don't want to divulge now, but that will make it a little bit more interesting than the ordinary by-election," Newby said.