Fri | Jan 18, 2019

Dec 29 is the day

Published:Monday | December 5, 2011 | 12:00 AM
Jamaica Labour Party Leader Andrew Holness calls the election for thousands of supporters in Manchester yesterday. - photos by Ian Allen
Jamaica Labour Party supporters in the early hours of yesterday's mass meeting in Mandeville, Manchester. - Ian Allen/Photographer
Thousands of People's National Party supporters gather in Cross Roads, St Andrew, to hear party President Portia Simpson Miller during a mass rally Saturday night, a day ahead of the announcement of the date for the next general election. - Norman Grindley/Chief Photographer
Jamaica Labour Party supporters in the early hours of yesterday's mass meeting in Mandeville, Manchester. - Ian Allen/Photographer

Jamaicans will elect a new government on December 29. Prime Minister and Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) Leader Andrew Holness announced the date in Mandeville, Central Manchester, last night where thousands of Labourites gathered for a mass meeting.

Nomination day will be December 12.

"Remember, I told you we were not going to trouble your Christmas," Holness told the crowd just after announcing the date. "I want you to have a happy Christmas, a merry Christmas. So we break for the Christmas period, but by the 28th you back on the road, and by the 29th you put your vote in the box, happy New Year, government in place, back on track, ready for work, ready for progress, ready for development, ready for a positive future."

Holness wants mandate

Holness, who became the country's ninth prime minister in September, has long signalled he needed his own mandate and would be seeking that from the people.

In announcing the date of the poll, Holness said: "Green light time."

He then said, "Yuh ready for the teacher?" which was followed by the song "Teacher, teacher, a beg u ring the bell". And he did.

"I checked with the director of elections and he told me that the new list is now published," Holness said while adding he was unwilling to call an election and not give more than 40,000 newly enumerated people a chance to vote.

"We call elections when we are ready and we are ready," he said, noting that the PNP has been calling for the election.

Holness, during the the JLP's annual conference in Kingston last month, said there were uncertainties relating to governance that needed to be resolved this year.

On that occasion, he teased the crowd and vigorously shook the 'freedom bell' as if he would call the election. Then, the thousands of Labourites urged him "call it, Andrew, call it". But that was not to be. He opted instead to stall the announcement until last night, which effectively ended any chance of the polls being held before Christmas.

As he went to the podium last night, Holness said, "This is simply amazing."

And before he could utter another word, the crowd shouted, "Call it, Andrew, call it."

He did not immediately satisfy their wish but would dance with them as the sound-system operator played the Black Eyed Peas' I Gotta Feeling.

"You have all come to the centre of the island to hear the date when Jamaica would march on to victory with the Jamaica Labour Party," Holness said.

Pole position

The general election will be contested for the first time in 63 constituencies up from the usual 60.

The governing JLP has said it intends to win 43 of those seats but the Opposition People's National Party (PNP) has dismissed that assertion as a pipe dream, saying it was in pole position to win the election.

The last general election was last held in September 2007 with the Golding-led JLP winning 32 seats while the Portia Simpson Miller-led PNP captured 28.

It was the narrowest election victory since Universal Adult Suffrage in 1944, but nonetheless secured the return of the JLP to power for the first time since 1989 when Michael Manley's PNP trounced Edward Seaga's JLP 45-15.

In 2007, the JLP secured a total of 410,438 votes or 49.97 per cent of all ballots cast while the PNP captured a total of 405,293 votes or 49.35 per cent of all ballots.

This time around there will be just over 1.6 million Jamaicans on the voters' list, an increase of more than 300,000 over the list which was used for the 2007 poll.

The latest Gleaner-commissioned Bill Johnson national poll show both parties locked in a statistical dead heat approaching the election. Some 29 per cent of Jamaicans say they would vote for the JLP while 32 per cent would vote for the PNP.

The poll, conducted on November 5, 6 and 12, has a margin of error of plus or minus four per cent.

In October, the poll found that with the Holness bounce, 31 per cent of Jamaicans would vote for the JLP if elections were called then, while 37 per cent said they would vote for the PNP.

While still behind the PNP, the JLP had gained six percentage points since June while the PNP had gained two, and the gap had closed from 10 percentage points to six.

Date Result

1944 - December 14 JLP 22, PNP 5,
Independent 5
1949 - December 20 JLP 17, PNP 13,
Independent 2

1955 - January 12 PNP 18, JLP 14

(32 seats in the House of Representatives)

1959 - July 28 PNP 29, JLP 16
1962 - April 10 JLP 26, 19 PNP

(45 seats in the House of Representatives)

Date Result
1967 - February 21 JLP 33, PNP 20
1972 - February 29 PNP 37, JLP 16

(53 seats in the House of Representatives)

1976 - December 15 PNP 47, 13 JLP
1980 - October 30 JLP 51, PNP 9

1983 - December 15 The PNP did not
contest. JLP
held all 60 seats

1989 - February 9 PNP 45, 15 JLP
Date Result
1993 - March 30 PNP 52, JLP 8
1997 - December 18 PNP 50, 10 JLP
2002 - October 16 PNP 34, 26 JLP
2007 - September 3 JLP 32, 28 PNP

(60 seats in the House of Representatives)

2011 December 29 To be

(63 seats in the House of Representatives)