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On your marks! - PM set to announce late October date for three by-elections today

Published:Saturday | September 30, 2017 | 12:00 AMArthur Hall
JLP Leader, Prime Minister Andrew Holness surrounded by supporters.
Dr Shane Alexis
Dr Norman Dunn

Prime Minister Andrew Holness is today expected to announce a date in the week of October 23-27 for voters in three constituencies which are without representation in Parliament to go to the polls.

Holness will headline a Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) mass meeting in Annotto Bay, St Mary, this afternoon, where he is

expected to make the announcement that voters in the three constituencies have been waiting to hear.

Annotto Bay is the epicentre of the St Mary South East constituency, which is the only one of the three where a real contest is expected. The others, St Andrew South and St Andrew South West, are traditional People's National Party (PNP) seats and nothing is expected to change this time around.

That should mean a place in the House of Representatives for Mark Golding, who should enjoy a facile victory over Dennis Messias, who is expected to represent the JLP in the St Andrew South race; and Angela Brown Burke, who should win by the proverbial 'city block' in her expected matchup with Victor Hyde in St Andrew South West.

But St Mary is where the contest really begins. Two doctors, Norman Dunn (JLP) and Shane Alexis (PNP), are expected to be nominated to contest the vacant St Mary seat, and with the stakes high, there is every indication that it will be a bruising contest and a fight to the finish.

The PNP won the seat through Dr Winston Green in 2016 by a mere five votes, but Dunn, whom he defeated, was always confident that the victory would be overturned by the court.

With the death of Green signalling an end to the court battle, it is back to the polls with the newcomer Alexis well aware that if he fails to pull off the win the JLP will move to 33 seats in the House while the PNP will drop to 30.

That's a prize that could propel Dunn, a relative newcomer to representational politics, several rungs up the political ladder as Holness, his party leader, could reward him for the breathing space that a three-seat majority would allow him in the House.

There is no shortage of support for both candidates, with the PNP pulling for 'Seven Star General', Dr Fenton Ferguson from the neighbouring St Thomas, and St Mary native Floyd Morris to lead its campaign, with offers to help from former PNP presidents and prime ministers P.J. Patterson and Portia Simpson Miller.

Not to be outdone, the JLP has picked its chairman, Robert 'Bobby' Montague, 'The Boss' of the neighbouring St Mary Western constituency, to lead the campaign with two of its finest street fighters, Daryl Vaz and James Robertson, already on the road and tracks of the rural communities.

On the streets, the Comrades and Labourities have also underscored the importance of a victory with flags and campaign paraphernalia already out and charges and countercharges on the airwaves.

Last week, the PNP called on the offices of the Contractor General and the Political Ombudsman to launch an investigation into what it claimed was the distribution of bushing contracts, particularly in the Bellfield division in the constituency.

"I noticed bushing work taking place across my division and when I enquired of the St Mary Municipal Corporation and the National Works Agency parish manager, neither knew of the work," charged Councillor Leevon Freeman of the Bellefield division.

That came hours after Dunn wrote to the Political Ombudsman alleging the vandalising of JLP billboards in the constituency.

According to Dunn, there was evidence to suggest a concerted effort to destroy all the billboards across the constituency belonging to the JLP.

"We have lost large billboards in Dover, Enfield, Broadgate, Toms River and two other areas. We also lost at least 40 2x2 small billboards around the junction alone," added Dunn, as he urged the Ombudsman to have Alexis rein in his supporters.

Not to be outdone, the PNP's young professionals group, the Patriots, said there was no evidence that JLP billboards had been damaged but it had evidence of persons destroying the billboards of Alexis.

That has set the tone for the election which could have the nomination day on October 9 with election day on October 26.