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Chang predicts low voter turnout in Corporate Area

Published:Thursday | September 3, 2020 | 12:22 AMEdmond Campbell/Senior Staff Reporter

In an election face-off where strategic political groundwork could determine the next government, the People’s National Party (PNP) and the ruling Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) are urging electors to observe the health protocols when they vote today amid a spike in COVID-19 cases.

Weeks of arduous campaigns, advertisements, and debates have ended, and it is now left for the 1,913,410 persons on the July 31 voters’ list to judge whether the Andrew Holness-led JLP gets a second term in office or Peter Phillips and the PNP will be handed the reins of power.

The parties rolled out their manifestos last week, seeking to woo the electorate, but apart from the COVID fears, opinion polls have shown significant voter apathy.

General secretary of the JLP, Dr Horace Chang, said he expects a fairly low voter turnout in the Corporate Area and other adjoining parishes.

He cited the COVID-19 pandemic as one of the factors that would have an impact on voter turnout.

However, he said that the coronavirus crisis would not have a significant impact on voters in western Jamaica. He said that a fairly high turnout of electors in western Jamaica would put the JLP in a strong position.

“In spite of the increased campaign of the Opposition, there is some apathy on some supporters’ part who may not wish to happily endorse Andrew (Holness) but don’t wish to vote against him,” said.

“The mood is for Andrew to stay as prime minister,” Chang said, adding that he was projecting at least 40 seats for the JLP.

The PNP’s general secretary, Julian Robinson, said that while people were concerned about COVID-19, it was difficult to tell the impact it would have on the election.

“We are taking all the measures to ensure our voters are safe … . We’ll be having masks at our stations and sanitisers so that people feel comfortable coming out to participate,” Robinson told The Gleaner.

He said that the party would erect tents in some areas where voters could wait if the process moves slower than anticipated.

Asked to provide a seat count for his party, Robinson said that the goal is to hold the current 29 seats that the PNP had and to target others that could take them to at least 32 to form a government.

Robinson encouraged supporters to come out early and vote, noting that there was some uncertainty about weather conditions.

“We want to assure them that persons can vote safely and that you’re not going to be exposed to COVID by going into a polling station,” he said.

At the same time, Chang appealed to supporters, well-wishers, and the party’s “base support” to “come out and exercise your democratic right”.

Meanwhile, it appears that there will be no allowance for celebrations beyond the Government’s 9 p.m. curfew. When asked if the curfew hours would remain intact for today, Attorney General Marlene Malahoo Forte pointed us to the Disaster Risk Management orders.

The Holness administration had said that beginning September 3, all parishes would be under a 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew.