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 Caribbean News Now contributor
KINGSTON, Jamaica -- There was still uncertainty in Jamaica on Monday after the Electoral Office (EoJ) extended the recount of votes cast in Thursday's general election, with the opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) leading the People's National Party (PNP) by one seat.
Speaking at a media briefing at the Electoral Commission of Jamaica (ECJ) in Kingston on Monday, director of elections, Orrette Fisher, told journalists that the EoJ had concluded the final count of votes in 62 of the 63 constituencies.
He said the results show the two main political parties – the People’s National Party (PNP) and the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) – each winning 31 constituencies, with Western St Thomas being the outstanding seat where counting is still being done.
Fisher said that final counting for that constituency was currently underway at the EoJ’s offices in downtown Kingston, “the decision having being taken to relocate that count to a (place) outside of the parish (of St Thomas).”
He advised that of the 156 boxes at the start of the count on Monday morning, “55 were examined and counted.”
“The Electoral Office is hoping to be able to advise the governor-general of the (final overall election) results by Wednesday, March 2, 2016. It must be noted, however, that if there is a magisterial recount for any constituency, the final results can only be declared at the completion of (this process),” Fisher stated.
Candidates have up to four days to request the magisterial recount.
The preliminary figures released late Thursday after the polls closed indicated that the JLP won 33 seats and the PNP won 30.
Meanwhile, ECJ chairperson, Dorothy Pine-McLarty, who described the close result as “unprecedented,” gave the assurance that “the integrity of the (electoral) system is intact.”
“In furtherance of our democratic process, there is a recount, otherwise called the final count, which goes through the ballots in great detail in the presence of representatives of all parties, their agents, lawyers if necessary, and senior representatives of the EoJ. That commences the next day and goes on until completed,” Pine-McLarty explained.
Fisher denied rumours that ballot boxes were missing and said that no fraud was noted in the general elections on Thursday.
His remarks increased the fear of new political tension in Jamaica and prompted a delay in the swearing in of JLP leader, Andrew Holness, as prime minister, which had been originally scheduled for Tuesday.
Party leaders urged their followers to keep calm and avoid confrontations.
Several incidents occurred during the election campaign, resulting in at least five deaths and dozens of injuries.