Fri | Apr 12, 2024

Low-key mood, much anxiety in St Elizabeth

Published:Tuesday | February 27, 2024 | 12:11 AMAdrian Frater/Gleaner Writer


WHILE SUPPORTERS of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and the People’s National Party (PNP) in St Elizabeth were in high spirits yesterday, the situation was different at the leadership level, where the optimism of recent weeks was replaced by cautious anxiety on both sides.

The day started out quite briskly in the parish’s 16 political divisions of the municipal corporation, where the JLP started the day defending a 9-6 majority on account of their impressive 2016 showing in which they reversed the PNP’s 9-6 victory in 2012.

When The Gleaner spoke to JC Hutchinson, who leads the JLP’s Region 4, which includes St Elizabeth, at about 4:30 p.m., the veteran politician, who is also the member of parliament for St Elizabeth Northwest, was not his usual upbeat self as he seemed totally focused on keeping the party’s machinery fully engaged going down into the final 30 minutes of voting.

“I can’t tell you much at this time. Our workers are still out there ensuring that we don’t leave any loose ends out there,” said Hutchinson, who, last week, told The Gleaner that he was confident that the JLP’s standing in the St Elizabeth Municipal Corporation (StEMC) would have increased, noting that the party was targeting the Ipswich division, the only division in his constituency that is in the PNP’s column.

“We have done the work in the field, so it is now time to see how the count goes when the polls close,” noted Hutchinson, not giving away anything in his measured response.

When The Gleaner spoke to Everton Fisher, who was defending the Balaclava division for the PNP, the man who served a term as the mayor of Black River was cautiously optimistic that the control of the StEMC would fall back into the hands of his party.

“I can’t speak about the situation in the entire parish, but in my neck of the woods, I believe we did very well in Balaclava and Siloah, and the reports coming out of Brompton at mid-afternoon were quite good,” said Fisher.

“I believe that based on our canvas going into the elections, once the numbers hold, we will be all right.”

Based on the turnout at 3 p.m., statistics provided by the Electoral Office of Jamaica (EOJ) reflected that some divisions were seeing good turnouts, with the Ipswich division, where the PNP’s Mugabe Kilimanjaro was gunning for a repeat victory over the JLP’s Kenroy Samuels, topping the list with a 32 per cent turnout, which was higher than the 27.31 per cent for the entire parish.

In terms of the mood on the ground in the parish, there were no security issues or concerns. There was the occasional friendly bantering from exuberant supporters on both sides, who operated in good spirits for the most part.

“When I went out to vote this morning, it was pretty low-key, so I got through very quickly without any hassle,” said educator Sophia Allen, who resides in the Ipswich division, which was expected to be among the most energetic based on the attention it got in the build-up to elections by the leadership of the two parties.

“We had some rain sometime after 2 p.m., so I am not sure how it affected the afternoon turnout in the division,” added Allen.