Jamaica’s municipal election stalemates

Jamaica’s Prime Minister, Andrew Holness.
Government of Jamaica

Both major political parties are claiming victory following Monday’s local government elections held in Jamaica on Monday. Pollsters and leaders of both the governing Jamaica Labor Party (JLP) and the main opposition People’s National Party (PNP) had billed this electoral fight as an indicator of which party will win the 2025 elections based on results.

For the PNP with only 14 of the 63 parliamentary seats, the party was desperate to put up a good showing after more than a decade of publicly embarrassing leadership fights that had triggered a loss of voter confidence in it with the leadership changing several times in recent years.

The umbrella electoral body reported that voter turnout was a mere 29.6 percent of an electorate of just over two million eligible voters compared to 30.6 in the last 2016 local government elections, signaling that the electorate does not hold municipal elections to the same level as the general.

JLP Leader and Prime Minister Andrew Holness told cheering supporters that the JLP had won “the local government elections without question,” noting that it was leading in seven municipal corporations compared to four for the PNP with two others tied. PNP Leader and attorney Mark Golding says that Monday’s showing had indicated that the “PNP has come back” from the political graveyard as it might well win the overall popular vote that would show that the party is on the rebound after a thrashing in the 2020 general elections.

PNP Leader and attorney Mark Golding.
PNP Leader and attorney Mark Golding. Photo by JamPNP – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

Golding on the other hand hailed his party’s improved showing as “a victory for the people of Jamaica, those who are tired of having poor road conditions, having to wait for a bed at the hospitals, and for those who cannot get their garbage collected,” as he dedicated the results to former party leaders and prime ministers Michael Manley, P.J. Patterson, Portia Simpson Miller. Former leader Peter Phillips was never elected as prime minister but had served in the key position as security minister in previous PNP administrations.

The electoral system has promised a complete recount of the votes to come up with a final winner even though both parties are running with its preliminary count and treating them as final and as respective victories. This week’s election with Golding as the head was a first for him since he had replaced Peter Phillips as leader back in 2020. Party General Secretary Dayton Campbell says the party ran a good campaign and did its best to ease the dominance of the JLP.

“I think we ran a very successful campaign. The first objective was to reconnect and get in touch with our base, and the evidence was overwhelming. You will recall that 130,000 persons did not come out to vote for us in 2020. I think they are now interested in the process, they are energized, and they are now familiar with the leader of the party and what he stands for,” the Gleaner newspaper quoted him as saying.

The country is now expected to switch to preparations for the general contest in 2025 even though it is widely expected to be called before.