5 takeaways from Jamaica’s general election

A supporter of the People’s National Party and the Jamaica Labour Party share a moment during today’s general election. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

Jamaica’s general elections were concluded last evening and the ruling Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) was returned to power with a resounding victory over the People’s National Party (PNP).

With 49 of the 63 seats going to the JLP, the results represent a significant swing towards the Andrew Holness-led party which won back-to-back elections (where both parties contested the polls) for the first time.

Prime Minister of Jamaica Andrew Holness after he voted in the general election yesterday morning.

Besides the landslide victory for the Labourites, there were other notable points coming out of the elections:

1. There are 15 first-time MPs: Among the elected representatives who will be make their way to Gordon House, 15 are first-time candidates; 13 from the JLP and two from the PNP. The slate of fresh faces includes Rhoda Crawford and Dwight Sibbles of the JLP and the PNP’s Lothan Cousins and Hugh Graham.

2. Small axe cut down big tree: This was particularly true for the PNP which saw several of its heavyweights – including six-time MP Fenton Ferguson – replaced by younger, less experienced and or lesser-known challengers.

3. “Safe seats” may be a thing of the past: It’s well-known that there are several seats across the country that the JLP and PNP could rely on to vote their way; prior to yesterday, that is. Now, having seen the PNP lose seats that have traditionally voted its way – including Trelawny Northern – and barely fending off challenges in others – such as St Ann South Eastern, it makes one think there may no longer be ‘sure things’ in Jamaican politics.

4. Don’t doubt the polls: While we have had instances where numbers have misled us and projected outcomes went another way, polls in Jamaica have generally held true to form. Heading into the election, a Jamaica Observer-commissioned poll gave the JLP a 14-point lead, with the pollster, Bill Johnson, later saying the party could take as many as 50 seats. Well…he wasn’t far off.

5.There’s growing disillusion with politics/politicians: It must be hard as Jamaicans to continue seeing some of the same challenges we faced on Independence back in 1962, continue to plague us now. With approximately 710,000 Jamaicans participating in the electoral process, it makes one wonder how much more needs to be done to engage the other 63 per cent – of the roughly 1.9 million people registered to vote – who chose to not vote.