Fri | Apr 12, 2024

BATTLE FOR CONTROL

- JLP anticipates reasonable turnout on Monday - PNP upbeat as Golding faces first electoral test as president

Published:Sunday | February 25, 2024 | 12:11 AMErica Virtue - Senior Gleaner Writer

Andrew Holness’ JLP is looking to retain control on the municipal corporations.
Andrew Holness’ JLP is looking to retain control on the municipal corporations.

Tomorrow’s local government elections will be PNP President Mark Golding’s first electoral test since he took the reins of the party in November 2020.
Tomorrow’s local government elections will be PNP President Mark Golding’s first electoral test since he took the reins of the party in November 2020.
Director of Elections, Glasspole Brown
Director of Elections, Glasspole Brown
Dr Dayton Campbell, PNP general secretary
Dr Dayton Campbell, PNP general secretary
Dr Horace Chang, JLP general secretary
Dr Horace Chang, JLP general secretary
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It is expected to be a neck-and-neck race to the finish line between candidates of the ruling Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and the opposition People’s National Party (PNP) in tomorrow’s local government elections, according to pundits and a recent opinion poll.

Months of islandwide campaigning, plagued by tragedies, with some heart-warming moments and monumental promises, came to an end Saturday night, as the island’s two main political parties used the weekend to prepare for the final lap to get voters out and indicate their preferred candidates from the 499 nominated islandwide, including 36 independents, in 14 municipal corporations.

The battle also includes the only directly elected mayorship in Portmore, St Catherine.

Director of Elections Glasspole Brown said his team is working to ensure that tomorrow’s proceedings flow smoothly and that adequate ballots are available for the just over two million registered voters islandwide.

“The system is ready to go. Our workers have been trained. All the officials for the day have also been trained, support service operatives, supervisors, reserves. We are having a final session tomorrow afternoon (Sunday) with all election day workers and we will deploy them early Monday,” the elections boss told The Sunday Gleaner yesterday.

He said that all polling stations have been checked, rechecked and confirmed, with the hope that Thursday’s mishap will not be repeated.

On Thursday during the voting for members of the essential services, one polling division was negatively impacted as the ballots for that station did not arrive. An investigation is currently under way to ascertain what happened.

“The one-off incident of the non-delivery of ballots that occurred in one of 10 polling stations, the Jamaica Police Academy, during the taking of polls for the local government elections on Thursday, February 22, is not expected to reoccur,” Brown said.

“As a redress, a decision has been taken to allow the affected persons in that polling station to vote tomorrow, the day civilians will vote.”

He stressed, “Another thorough audit check of all supplies required for Monday was undertaken to ensure that all supplies will be in all polling stations islandwide.”

NO USE OF EVIBIS

While the Electronic Voter Identification and Ballot Issuing System (EVIBIS) will not be used in the elections, divisions in 22 constituencies with a history of electoral malpractice will receive special attention from the security forces tomorrow.

“We are treating these constituencies specially. So workers will be taken from outside to man the polling stations. All EOJ officials will be from outside these communities and in our interactions with the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) and Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), we have asked them to pay special attention to these constituencies,” Brown disclosed.

“Even though the police and soldiers will have responsibility for all-island security, we have asked them to pay special attention to these areas to make sure that everything flows smoothly. These are areas which have historically had problems with elections, from vote padding to crime and violence, and some of that history continues. But it’s more on the side of crime and violence, which can disrupt proceedings on the day.”

JLP EXPECTS ‘REASONABLE TURNOUT’

The two main political parties said they are hoping that groundswell seen on the campaign trail will translate into winning ballots for their candidates.

JLP General Secretary Dr Horace Chang said the party is satisfied with the campaign it ran.

“After the road campaign ended, it’s basically getting into the constituencies on a much broader scale and putting the mobilisation plans into action. Based on what we have seen on the ground, we will get a reasonable turnout – not a big turnout – and we believe we will do very well,” Chang told The Sunday Gleaner yesterday.

His comments come a day after RJRGLEANER Communications Group opinion polls revealed that the JLP had a slim one-percentage-point lead over the PNP. At the same time, the polls also revealed that a growing number of registered votes continue to watch from the fence.

“The party leader (Andrew Holness) has been out, and most of us have been out in our own geographic space engaging our base, our workers, and doing some increased public education to let them know what is required in local government,” said Chang.

“I think they are fully sensitised and we expect a good turnout of the supporters. We also expect to do well come Monday, but it is a long and tedious work.”

‘ALL ELECTIONS ARE LOCAL’

Political pundits have argued that the campaigns for both parties have been national, with promises being made which are not in the realms of local government. But Chang countered that all elections are local, irrespective of a perceived national profile.

“Those of us in politics and participating in elections for a long time know that this is a local election in a country that is relatively small. The wider community will see national, but those in the divisions will see local because elections are local. Communities have become more in tune with what local government does as against what a national election does,” argued Chang.

One of the primary objectives of the campaign and the activities was to get the base mobilised, he said.

“In that regard, the objective has been met. In terms of getting the message to the wider population, we have come a long way, but we are not quite there yet. But the issue of local government will remain topical, and the minister (Desmond McKenzie), who could be described as Mr Local Government, has been pretty effective in highlighting the issues,” said the JLP general secretary.

He pointed to the party addressing the issue of sanitation, which impacts the environment. This has resulted in more garbage trucks being added to the fleet of the National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA), the agency responsible for garbage collection in Jamaica.

In the recent RJRGLEANER polls, which were done by Don Anderson and his team from Market Research Services Limited, respondents listed infrequent garbage collection, bad road conditions, and poor street lighting among their grouses against municipal corporations.

Chang believes the party and the Government have raised sufficient sensibilities to the issues impacting communities for the electors to give them a further vote of confidence.

In the last local government elections in 2016, the JLP won eight of the municipal corporations, while the PNP won four. There was a tie in one.

“We expect them to allow us to continue the work that we have started doing and as we go forward in a better economic position, we expect to strengthen local government,” Chang told The Sunday Gleaner.

MARK GOLDING’S TEST

Tomorrow’s local government elections will be PNP President Mark Golding’s first electoral test since he took the reins of the party in November 2020.

PNP General Secretary Dr Dayton Campbell said those who believe that Golding has not been accepted as the party’s leader should perish the thought.

“I think we ran a very successful campaign. The first objective was to reconnect and get in touch with our base, and the evidence was overwhelming,” Campbell told The Sunday Gleaner yesterday.

“You will recall that 130,000 persons did not come out to vote for us in 2020. I think they are now interested in the process, they are energised, and they are now familiar with the leader for the party and what he stands for.”

Dr Peter Phillips was head of the PNP for the September 2020 general election. He resigned less than 24 hours after being roundly defeated by the JLP by 49 to 14 seats.

Campbell said the party’s theme of ‘Time Come’ under Golding has become a rallying cry.

“Time Come is a call to action. It serves as the anchor of our criticisms – time come to end corruption – and it also acts as a promise. So we say time come to deliver proper roads to our people, and I believe that people running down from the hillsides and those on the flats are all shouting, ‘Time Come!’,” he declared.

MANIFESTO DELIVERED

Up to press time, only the PNP had presented a local government manifesto, “even though we were not the ones who called the elections”, Campbell said.

Last week, the JLP said its manifesto would be released on Saturday.

“Being able to keep a manifesto promise means something. We said we would release it and we did. And the people are appreciative of it based on the comments we have received. Proposals to entrench local government; deepening citizens’ participation and the security councils; the divisional development fund; the idea to separate garbage collections and regulations from NSWMA; the ideas around better markets and the one-stop shop for entertainment have been well received,” the general secretary outlined.

Responding also to the view that the PNP, too, ran a general election campaign, Campbell said they responded to the JLP, which in 2023 said it wanted a third term. Talks about highways, the economy and low unemployment rate were touted, none of which directly impacts local government.

“We rebutted some of what they have been saying, but we put out a manifesto that is about local government issues, and we also believe that people are tired of the Government overall, and they want to use the local government elections to send a message and start the process of changing the Government,” argued Campbell.

The message from the people was overwhelming, he said.

“The PNP has not won an election since 2011. It’s almost 12 years and they are militant. They are saying they are going to take back Jamaica from the JLP. They are tired of the corruption and disrespect. And they will be going out to vote in their numbers,” he declared.

FIRST ELECTION

AS GENERAL SECRETARY

This is Campbell’s first election as general secretary. He was elected to the post in November 2020.

“It’s a game of momentum. We are coming from way behind and we have toiled long and hard in the field. The momentum is with us and we have seen it since last year’s annual conference. The energy has been heightened and the Comrades are raring to go,” he said.

He said Golding has been relentless in his efforts to meet and greet the people and chat with them on the highways and byways, rural and urban.

“For those who say he is not getting traction, who continue that argument, they are betraying logic, common sense and truth. He has been warmly received. People are coming out naturally to meet and greet the leader,” he said.

Meanwhile, none of the 36 nominated independent candidates are expected to make the winners’ enclosure since Paul Patmore was elected as an independent councillor in 2012 in the Lorrimers division in Trelawny and served a single term in the then parish council.

However, a strong showing by independents in keenly contested divisions could tip the votes in favour of either the JLP or PNP.

erica.virtue@gleanerjm.com