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Democracy tested in Jamaica
Published on March 2, 2016 Email To Friend    Print Version

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Director of Elections, Orrette Fisher (left), responds to questions posed during Monday’s media briefing at the Electoral Commission of Jamaica (ECJ) in Kingston, where he provided an update on the final counting of votes in the February 25 parliamentary elections. Listening is ECJ Chairperson, Dorothy Pine-McLarty. Photo: Michael Sloley

By Claudette de la Haye
Caribbean News Now contributor

KINGSTON, Jamaica – Today, for the first time in the history of Jamaica, democracy is being tested and uncertain after 53 years of independence and 17 elections that have had decisive majorities in the past.

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After an initial dead heat of 31 seats for each main party -- the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and the People’s National Party (PNP) -- with ballots in 62 of 63 constituencies counted and recounted, the St Thomas Western seat was finally declared for the JLP on Tuesday.

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Jamaica's parishes

The final count after Thursday's election is therefore JLP 32 seats and PNP 31 seats.

Given it is unlikely that the results of a magisterial recount in St Thomas Western will change the numbers, JLP leader Andrew Holness will become the weakest Jamaican prime minister in history with a one seat majority.

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Andrew and Juliette Holness voting on Thursday

Needless to say, the PNP is in shock and outgoing prime minister, Portia Simpson Miller (after asking the press if she looked like a loser) looks like a loser given a begrudging concession speech. The weekend undoubtedly provided a lesson in humility and maturity for all those involved in politics.

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Outgoing prime minister, Portia Simpson Miller casts her ballot

The Electoral Commissions of Jamaica (EoJ) held a press conference on Monday, when director of elections, Orrette Fisher, issued a statement as to how the ballot boxes were handled once the polling stations were closed and how votes were tallied. He also explained the difference between a spoiled ballot and rejected ballot.



Ballot Box Process

In a nutshell, ballots are given their preliminary count at the precincts on the day of elections and the boxes are then sealed, with election results posted on the outside of each box.

The law provides for a final count to commence in each constituency the day after the poll has been taken. The results that are given on the night of the election are preliminary results obtained from the presiding officers who would have counted the ballots in the presence of the agents of the candidates.

Fisher decided, rather than count the votes at precincts, they were taken to the EoJ offices for fear of encroachment on the counting process and to abrogate any possible party rivalry, let alone civil unrest.

As of Tuesday, challenges resulting in magisterial recounts (within four days of the final count) will take place for St James Southern (Davis vs Kellier) and St Mary South Eastern (Green vs Dunn).

Once all of the counting is complete the EoJ will have done its job and the results are transmitted to the Governor General Patrick Allen, when he will at his discretion invite the person most likely to lead a majority in Parliament to form the next government.

So, we are unlikely to see a swearing in ceremony before Thursday.

Political State of Jamaica

Jamaica must regain its equilibrium quickly because, with a 32 – 31 result, the new prime minister may expect legislation to be hijacked with the absence of a single member of parliament – sick or otherwise. In the event of a tie in parliament the speaker of the house will be put to work as he/she will have a casting vote to avoid political stalemate.

There is some speculation that prime minister may well give a seat in the cabinet to the opposition, forming a coalition of sorts.

Every single scenario is up for grabs and supported by Jamaica’s constitution.

However, in the circumstances, another general election in Jamaica within the year is now a distinct possibility in order to establish a workable majority -- not to mention the delayed local elections of July 2015, which must take place in summer 2016

Winners and Losers

The latest political turmoil will undoubtedly take a toll on garrison communities, which are ill-equipped to stand up to close elections like this one. Simply put, garrisons are unable to compete with the radicalization of the public through social media such as YouTube, Twitter and Facebook. So, the electorate can expect the diminished presence of garrisons in the long run, and the sooner the better for Jamaicans and the Diaspora.

In the war of pollsters -- national sampling vs sampling marginal constituencies -- political pollsters, namely, Don Anderson (RJR), Dr Herbert Gayle (Gleaner) and Christopher Charles (UWI) all predicted landslides for PNP. Unfortunately, in their sample data they missed the fact that Floyd Green won by 2,000-plus votes. However, Bill Johnson, an independent American pollster, accurately predicted the Montague and Green race. In contrast, Derek Ramsarooj of Trinidad and Tobago when, after 15 constituencies were too close to call, predicted a JLP victory in the general elections.

Political upheavals are indeed looming in view of the fact the largest segment of the electorate is women. This will certainly bring policy changes to Jamaica.

Full results

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Comments:

Lionel Gayle:

I notice that the story above is date-lined Kingston, Jamaica (close to the seat of the election), but I don't think the writer has gotten her facts straight. For instance, when the preliminary results were announced on Thursday night (February 25, 2016)-- or even the following day -- the JLP had 33 seats and the PNP 30. Then on the weekend the final count in St. Mary South Eastern, where the JLP Norman Dunn had been the winner, had been reversed, thus making the PNP Lloyd Green the winner by 9 votes. It's presently undergoing a magisterial recount, but that's what had brought the final(current) count to JLP 32 PNP 31. At the St. Thomas Western recount, the JLP James Robertson was confirmed the winner over the PNP Marsha Francis. Therefore, that meant that the score had remained at 32-31 in favour of the JLP.

Claudette de la Haye:

Response: Claudette de la Haye to Lionel Gayle

For someone living in in Toronto, Canada with a prized education from UWI. Don't you have a LESS constructive means of human effort? You have even less appreciation/knowledge for Jamaica's Constitution. What are you all about BOY!

Alas, when you are the FIST FEMALE JAMAICAN JOURNALIST in DETROIT, MI since Marcus Garvey (four hours away from you)with 15 Million #1 GLOBALLY reading my work (#1 in TORONTO) You wrote on your FACEBOOK Page "you don't care about who wins the Jamaican General Election". So what give with BOYS like you? I work hard for my readers to get unique material and, given the hair splitting rhetoric you have written. Indeed, you have eerie similarities and qualities between you and Dr. Robert Gayle whom, is the laughing stock of Jamaican Media ie.,live broadcast at the Gleaner and Cliff Hughes online Power 106) and the butt end jokes for missing 2,000 votes as a pollster and lack of accuracy. It took Derek Ramsaeooj (Pollster) from Trinidad to sample 15 constituents in two weeks proved to be the most accurate.. I join everyone else in telling YOU and Dr Gayle to RESIGN. And, go find something less boring instead so you can contribute toward the growth the Jamaica and the Jamaican Diaspora.

Walk good wid dat deh mouth you have boy!!!

And, I welcome any more blithering male comments questioning the quality of my work as a woman against any man to get out there in the Caribbean American to do Journalism irregardless, of where in the world I may write.

I take exceptional and vehement pride in writing writting from Detroit as the ONLY Female for brand Caribbean Automotive Photo Journalist and Brand Caribbean at Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Jesus! Lionel I hope you're no kin to Dr Gayle!!!

Besides, you or your mother couldn't wear my brazier if you both tried... so,what you have to offer living in Toronto?


Lionel Gayle:

Wow! I didn't know that by merely pointing out an inconsistency in a story (written in a public medium)I would've ignited a powder keg. However, as long as you're a female (I don't have to know you),you're still my sister. That's why it's so regretful that I've given you a cause to expose your psychological profile. I'm really sorry dear.


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