by Arthur Hall, Senior Staff Reporter
South East St Mary seems headed for another nail-biting finish when the votes are counted after the December 29 general election.
With both parties putting in two relatively new candidates, the voters in the eastern Jamaica constituency appear to be using every available minute to make their choice and it seems 'any number can play'.
The last time the people of South East St Mary voted in a general election, the Jamaica Labour Party's (JLP) Tarn Peralto squeezed home by a mere 24 votes over the People's National Party's (PNP) Harry Douglas following a magisterial recount.
This time around two new candidates, the JLP's Richard Creary, who is the mayor of Port Maria, and the PNP's Dr Winston Green, a dentist, will be on the ballot and indications are that the race will be just as tight.
The latest Gleaner-commissioned Bill Johnson constituency poll has found voters in the constituency split almost evenly as to which party they plan to vote for and which of the two candidates they would like to see in Parliament.
When residents were asked whom they would vote for if the election were held now, 41 per cent said PNP, 36 per cent said JLP while the others were undecided (10 per cent), not planning to vote (12 per cent) or refused to answer.
With the poll having a sampling margin of error of plus or minus five per cent, the result shows the two parties in a statistical dead heat in a seat both expect to win.
The response was similarly close when voters were asked which of the two candidates they would like to see in Parliament.
Green, who has been on the ground and organising the PNP's machinery for some time, enjoys a slight numerical lead with 41 per cent support while 37 per cent of the people said they would like to see Creary in the House of Representatives. Again, based on the margin of error, this is a statistical dead heat.
Creary, who is the chairman of the St Catherine Parish Council, was recently selected by the JLP to replace Peralto after Labourites in the constituency complained that he was about to cost the party the seat.
Since Creary has been selected to represent the JLP, 44 per cent of the people report having seen him in the constituency and 36 per cent say they have a favourable opinion of him.
But there is much more work for Creary to do as while 30 per cent of the residents say they view him in an unfavourable light, a sizeable number (34 per cent) say they are not sure what to make of the man running on the JLP ticket.
For Green, the majority of the people (57 per cent) say they have seen him in their community in recent weeks.
Green is viewed favourably by 45 per cent on the residents while 18 per cent say they have an unfavourable opinion of him. But, like Creary, a large number of the residents (37 per cent) say they have not yet formed a firm opinion on him.
December 29 will be the day of decision and it might take another magisterial recount to determine the winner.
In 2007, there were 19,901 people on the voters' list with 13,891, or approximately 70 per cent, voting. For the next general election, there will be 22,873 people on the voters' list.
The South East St Mary poll was conducted on December 3 with 480 respondents and a margin of error of plus or minus five per cent.