Phillips predicts 40 seats - PNP dreams of massive upset come Thursday
Dr Peter Phillips has predicted that his People’s National Party (PNP) will sweep 40 seats in this week’s parliamentary election, paving the way for him to become Jamaica’s 10th prime minister.
The Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) controlled 34 seats in the House of Representatives to 29 for the PNP before Prime Minister Andrew Holness advised Governor General Sir Patrick Allen earlier this month to dissolve Parliament.
But Phillips, who last night squared off with Holness in the final political debate before the election, believes voters, particularly PNP supporters, are fired up and ready to give his party a clear mandate.
When The Sunday Gleaner asked the 70-year-old PNP president to predict the seat count at the end of voting on Thursday, he indicated that despite polls to the contrary, his party was on course to victory.
“Based on the enthusiasm and resolute will of comrades and many persons feeling disappointed from the ongoing poor management of the economy and the COVID-19 spread, around 40 [seats],” he said, referencing the coronavirus outbreak.
Top manifesto pledge
It appears Phillips is pinning his political fortunes to the PNP’s pledge to give 370,000 families across the island a direct deposit of $4,000 each month towards their electricity and water bills.
“We will provide immediate relief for the Jamaican people, particularly the most vulnerable and working poor,” he said when asked to indicate the top manifesto pledge he wants voters to hold him to.
The PNP president insisted that the initiative, which has predictably drawn both commendation and condemnation, seeks to ensure that beneficiaries have potable water and electricity.
“These are vital in the fight against the coronavirus – water for the washing of hands and general sanitising and electricity so that children who will be out of school can access online lessons and continue their education,” he said.
The financial assistance would also ease the burden on these families and free up their resources to better manage in other areas such as the provision of food and other basic necessities, he reasoned.
Phillips is expecting a lower-than-normal voter turnout and took a jab at his political opponent for calling an election amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Jamaica has seen a recent surge in COVID-19 cases with roughly 482 of the island’s 2,011 cases recorded between last Sunday and Friday. The Ministry of Health and Wellness also says there have been 19 deaths from the virus up to Friday. Statistics for Saturday were not available up to press time.
“Regrettably, the Government has chosen to expose our people to increase chance of infection by calling the election just when the country is having a spike caused by their failure to effectively manage the spread of COVID-19. As such, I expect voters to be reluctant to expose themselves,” Phillips cautioned.
How does he plan to celebrate if the PNP can pull off the victory he has predicted?
“We will celebrate while being mindful of the current realities,” he said, adding that the PNP is a responsible organisation and is aware of the impact of the coronavirus on large gatherings.
With election campaigning cut short because of the rising virus numbers, Phillips said the high point for him has been the enthusiasm he has witnessed among PNP supporters across various communities “and their resolve not to brush the intolerable levels of corruption and theft of taxpayers’ money under the carpet”.
“They are calling for the PNP to rescue the country from a Government that has very little relationship with truth or justice, no regard for the Constitution and is hell-bent on taking public assets for themselves.”
The low point, he said, was the levels of suffering seen in communities, “and to think that a Government could be so callous as to ignore the plight of the people while embracing their colleagues’ pocketing public funds for themselves and connected associates, with impunity”.