JAMAICA READIES TO VOTE

Portia Simpson Miller, leader of the People’s National Party, speaks to supporters during the victory rally of the parliamentary elections in Kingston, Jamaica, late Thursday, Dec. 29, 2011.
Associated Press / Collin Reid, File

The first general elections in the Caribbean Community for 2016 will most likely be held in Jamaica, perhaps sooner than most people think.

Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller, the first female to be elected as a head of government of the island of about three million people, slipped up in parliament this week and in doing so gave the clearest indication yet that a date will soon be named.

Some reporters and parliamentarians had overheard her saying in an off microphone discussion that she had already decided on a date but was yet to announce it.

On the campaign trail last year, she had promised to name a date whenever the “master” would have touched her. In parliament during debates on Tuesday, she inadvertently said the master had touched her, answering members of the opposition.

The remark came moments after opposition legislator Audley Shaw had pleaded with her not to name a date for general elections until the voters list had been cleaned up and pruned of names which should not be on the voters scroll.

The JLP fears that it would not stand a chance with the current voters list and has said that it is prepared to wait a bit more until the elections and boundaries commission says the list is as accurate as possible.

“I have already been touched,” she mumbled to Shaw of the opposition Jamaica Labor Party (JLP) the Gleaner Newspaper said.

Back in late December 2011 when Jamaicans last went to the polls, the JLP was soundly trounced by the governing People’s National Movement (PNM) mustering only 21 of the 63 seats.

Indications are that the race will likely be much tighter this time around but the JLP remains divided by internal wrangling linked to whether leader and former one-time prime minister Andrew Holness should be retained or dumped to face the ever popular Simpson-Miller.

Large sections of the JLP believe that Holness is boring and lacks charisma compared to the traditional grass root charms of the prime minister, whose support among the poor and downtrodden is almost cult-like.

A recent Observer Newspaper editorial had suggested that a faction of hardcore JLP supporters, upset that they are apparently stuck with Holness, would not mind swallowing a PNP win as it would give them valid excuses to dump a man they think could never beat the incumbent head of government.

Simpson-Miller has until the end of December to call a general election, being five years to the day of the previous that the JLP lost after calling it more than a year before due.

The publication has also called for a fixed date for general elections similar to that of the U.S. as it makes for easier planning and takes away the power of government to keep a nation guessing as to when a date would be named.

“A general election, in any country where there is responsible political leadership, should be called on a date which is in the best interest of the country, and not when it is in the best interest of the ruling political party. Are we being naïve? There are those who believe that, given the heightened activities in anticipation of elections, the sooner it is held the better to allow the country to settle down and get on with the business of building the economy.”

Further confirmation that the naming of a date is near came from the PNP itself. Last Sunday, it named and rolled out all 63 of its candidates even as Audley Shaw complains about a dirty electoral scroll.

“Names are on the list that should not be on the list. Is that part of a plan to have corrupt elections in this country?” he questioned. An election is about to be called on a voters’ list that has between 400,000 and 500,000 names that should not be on it. Don’t mek anybody touch you! Don’t mek the master touch you until the voters’ list clean up,” Shaw said.

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