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Advantage JLP - Pollster Believes Deficit Too Vast For PNP Comeback

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Source: Jamaica Gleaner


Image caption: Gladstone Taylor/Multimedia Photo Editor An Electoral Office of Jamaica worker wheels out supplies in the background of statues of the fathers of Jamaica’s Independence-era democracy, Alexander Bustamante and Norman Manley. Approximately 1.9 million voters are eligible to go to the polls today as Prime Minister Andrew Holness tries to become the first Jamaica Labour Party leader in more than half a century to win consecutive contested general elections.

The Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) is on course for re-election today amid what is expected to be the country’s lowest voter turnout partly owing to the crippling effects of the coronavirus pandemic, pollster Don Anderson has calculated.

The Opposition People’s National Party (PNP), which is seeking to stop the JLP from winning its consecutive contested elections for the first time since 1967, faces a “steep” climb, he added.

Anderson’s assessment is based on an assessment of election results from 2002-2016 and more than 50 constituency polls done since the last general election. Twenty-six of those were done in the last month.

The ruling JLP enters today’s battle defending 34 seats to the PNP’s 29.

But based on the analysis, the Dr Peter Phillips-led PNP “comfortably” holds 23 seats, which it is expected to retain.

The JLP is ahead, however, with 28 “comfortable seats”, which it should bring home.

This leaves 12 seats up for grabs. Of that number, the PNP currently holds five “but will be hard-pressed to retain all or even most of these”, reads the Anderson analysis.

The JLP just needs four to retain control of Gordon House.

“All the polls we have done so far, including four national and over 20 constituency polls, point to a clear victory for the JLP,” Anderson told The Gleaner.

But the pollster admitted that Jamaica’s 18th general election since universal adult suffrage is taking place under “totally unusual circumstances”, pointing to the disruptive coronavirus pandemic and the rainy weather forecast for today.

When those factors are considered in the context of 2016, in which those issues were absent and the lowest voter turnout (47.7 per cent) was recorded, Anderson said no improvement in turnout should be expected.

In fact, he said the expectation is that no more than 40 per cent of the 1.9 million people registered to vote will exercise their franchise this time around.

And since the analysis shows that most potential voters for the PNP are 45 years and over, the outlook for the party may be grim since that demographic is said to be more vulnerable to the coronavirus.

“This could significantly dent the PNP’s chances of putting up a decent showing. Added to this is the fact that some 30,000 persons are said to be in quarantine and have been cleared to vote. It is anticipated that a significant percentage might opt not to do so,” Anderson said.

“In an environment where 3,000 votes out of close to one million separated the parties in the 2016 election, this number (30,000) represents a very significant group,” he added.

People in COVID-19 quarantine and isolation will be allowed to vote but under strict protocols.

Though acknowledging that the election could ultimately be determined by the mobilisation on the day, “the JLP is poised to (retake) the reins of government”.

The PNP’s leader, Phillips, has been upbeat, however, even projecting that his party could retake the government with a seat count close to the party’s 2011 victory when it won 42 constituencies.

“Based on the enthusiasm and resolute will of Comrades and many persons feeling disappointed from the ongoing poor management of the economy and the COVID-19 spread, around 40 [seats],” Phillips told The Gleaner on the weekend.

Holness, meanwhile, has steered clear of giving a prediction. Instead, he has argued that his administration “has put in the work over the last four and a half years that would justify a second term in the minds of Jamaicans”.

That hasn’t stopped some of his senior party members from giving insight into the party’s calculations.

One official central to the party’s inner workings told The Sunday Gleaner that the JLP is targeting between 37 and 42 seats. The latter would give the JLP a crucial two-thirds majority in the 63-seat House of Representatives.

jovan.johnson@gleanerjm.com

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