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JLP has advantage in new constituencies

Published:Wednesday | March 3, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter

THE THREE new constituencies created by the Electoral Commission of Jamaica (ECJ) appear to give an advantage to the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) based on the 2007 general election results.

Two new constituencies are being carved into St Catherine, while another has been added to St James.

The realignment of constituency boundaries and the creation of the new seats came after Parliament mandated the ECJ to increase the number of seats from 60 to 63.

One of the St Catherine consti-tuencies will be created in Spanish Town under the banner, East Central St Catherine. This seat, to be made up of just over 20,000 electors, will have a majority of 3,206 persons who voted for the JLP in the 2007 general election.

JLP majority

The voters being transferred to this new constituency once cast ballots in Church Pen and Sydenham in South West St Catherine, Homestead in Central St Catherine, Bellevue in West Central St Catherine and parts of De La Vega City.

Meanwhile, in Portmore, where the other seat is being created, the JLP has the majority of voters, based on the 2007 general election results.

However, unlike in the Spanish Town seat, this new constituency does not appear to be a runaway for the governing party. It has a majority of 530 voters who marked X for the JLP in the '07 poll.

But the new Portmore seat, while presenting the JLP with a fighting majority, has given breathing room to the Opposition People's National Party (PNP) in South East St Catherine, a seat Colin Fagan won over the JLP's Arthur Williams by just 305 votes. The PNP's margin in that seat might now be increased to 428 votes, based on the subtraction of votes for the JLP last time around.

However, the PNP's majority in South St Catherine - of 1,420 - has now been reduced to 936 with the realignment.

In western Jamaica, the new St James seat appears, based on the 2007 election results, to be solidly JLP.

A majority of the 10,126 persons who have been transferred to the new seat voted for the JLP. In fact, the JLP now has a majority of 988 in this new seat - Central St James - based on the 2007 vote.

While the JLP can smile at the numbers in Central St James, it may have reason to be concerned about neighbouring West Central St James, which is now represented by Clive Mullings.

Mullings won the 2007 poll over the PNP's Francis Tulloch by 536 votes, but the transfer of voters means his majority might be reduced to 228.

Political commentator Richard 'Dickie' Crawford has said the JLP should not feel it is in the driver's seat because it appears to be winning the numbers game in the new constituencies.

Wary of voter transfers

"They can't be comfortable with the fact that the numbers are in their favour, and that would mean that automatically they would win the seat," Crawford said.

He added: "They would have an advantage going into any kind of election, but I dare say that the next election in Jamaica is going to be contested along different lines from the traditional party contest."

On the contrary, political historian, Troy Cain, says the change of constituency boundaries will not impact on voting behaviour, and that the numbers seem to suggest the JLP will benefit from the creation of the new seats.

"People generally vote the same. There is a continuity. All that really happens on paper is that an area adopts a new name," Cain said.

daraine.luton@gleanerjm.com