Andrew Holness, leader of the opposition Jamaica Labour Party. (FP)
KINGSTON – Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) candidates expect that the date of the next general election will be announced in the next 21 days, which could mean going to the polls before the start of the next fiscal year, April 1.
Under the law, there must be a minimum of five clear days between the announcement of an election and Nomination Day; and 16 to 23 days between Nomination Day and the election.
“Today, our candidates have been placed on a 21-day election watch. An election can be called 21 days from wherever you are, so they have been made aware of this,” Opposition Leader Andrew Holness told a press briefing at the Jamaica Conference Centre in downtown Kingston yesterday.
“They have responded well; they are back in the field and are doing what is necessary to be prepared and stay prepared for an election,” added Holness, who called the impromptu press briefing during a break in the party’s constituency leadership meeting, where candidates participated in workshops geared toward preparing them for the pending election.
A source close to the core of the People’s National Party (PNP) told the Jamaica Observer on Thursday that Prime Minister Simpson Miller is expected to announce the election date in two weeks’ time.
The election is constitutionally due in December of this year, but both major political parties were in full election mode toward the end of 2015 as it was widely expected that Simpson Miller would have announced a December date. However, the prime minister brought all electioneering to a halt when, in November, she announced at a meeting in Black River, St Elizabeth, that she would not announce a date before the publishing of the November 30 voters’ list.
“The youths of Jamaica should be given an equal opportunity to have a say in the way their country is governed,” Simpson Miller was quoted as saying then. She also said at the time that she was waiting on God to tell her when the election should be held.
The prime minister’s decision led to renewed calls for a fixed election date, with some arguing that the build-up was costly to taxpayers — in terms of money spent to prepare election workers, among other things — and disruptive to businesses.
Notwithstanding Simpson Miller’s pronouncements, political pundits have speculated that the real reason could be found in unfavourable poll numbers and the infighting within her party. It had also been argued in some quarters that the build-up to the expected December polls was a ploy for the JLP to expend its meagre resources so that it will be at a disadvantage by the time the actual date is announced.
The JLP has seen its own protracted infighting threatening to rip the party to shreds, as some in the party banded together in an unsuccessful effort to oust Holness as leader. The divide is said to have resulted in financial backers pulling away from the party. But yesterday, JLP General Secretary Dr Horace Chang, who, along with Chairman Robert Montague, also participated in the press briefing, said “the JLP is united, strong and organised” and “ready and capable” of forming the next government.
One of its election preparation strategies, Holness said, is to court uncommitted voters, who represent 30 per cent of registered voters, and who vote on issues instead of party allegiance. (Reuters)