Thursday 24 September, 2020

Election date ‘soon, soon’, says Holness at Montego Bay meeting

Prime Minister Andrew Holness (File photo)

Prime Minister Andrew Holness (File photo)

Jamaicans are now firmly on election watch as Prime Minister Andrew Holness has told members of the Jamaica Labour Party’s (JLP) powerful Central Executive that the date for the next general elections will be announced soon.

At the same time, the party’s full list of 63 candidates to contest the polls was presented at the meeting of the party’s second highest decision-making body outside of the annual conference, on Sunday at the Montego Bay Convention Centre in St James.

On Friday Holness kicked off a four-day tour of the western Jamaica parish where his party holds four of the five parliamentary seats, as he sought to drum up support for his re-election bid.

"The party leader indicated he will make certain announcements 'soon, soon'," JLP chairman Robert Montague told reporters at a press conference following the Central Executive meeting.

During the meeting, Holness also reportedly told Labourites that the party’s general election campaign will be run under the theme ‘Recovering Stronger’. That appeared to be an acknowledgement that much work will have to be done to rebuild the economy which economists say will be a long haul. Projections are that it will take up to three years to rebuild the economy from the ravages of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

While Holness said just weeks ago that his focus was on rebuilding the economy, rather than elections, analysts have been indicating that the longer he waits to send Jamaicans to the polls, the more likely he could squander the political capital that he has. Such capital shows him enjoying double-digit leads over the Opposition People’s National Party (PNP) in numerous public opinion polls. He is also credited with how he has led the Government’s response to the coronavirus outbreak.

However, with COVID-19 cases breaking the 1,000 mark over the weekend, and with 13 deaths from the virus and two communities currently under quarantine, analysts have been warning that things could quickly get worse if the economic and health crises deepens.

If the date for the election is announced in the coming days, then Jamaicans could be headed for the polling booths in September in what would be the country’s 18th general elections since Universal Adult Suffrage in 1944.

It would be only the second time that general elections are held in September, which is the traditional back-to-school month. The first occasion was triggered by Hurricane Dean, which forced then Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller to shift the August date to September 3, 2007. On that occasion, the PNP lost to the Bruce Golding-led JLP, breaking a near 20-year drought in the political wilderness.

Meanwhile, the PNP has indicated that it is ready to contest the elections whenever the prime minister ‘flies the gate’ or as is now dubbed in some quarters, ‘gives the greenlight’.

On Saturday the PNP presented its 63 candidates during a meeting at the Mona Campus of the University of the West Indies in St Andrew. 

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