Patterson confident tide turning in PNP's favour
Friday, February 08, 2002
PATTERSON... trends indicate PNP on right track
PRIME Minister P J Patterson was confident yesterday that the political tide was turning in favour of his ruling People's National Party (PNP) which, he said, had "more than a reasonable chance" of gaining a fourth consecutive term in elections later this year.
The PNP leader also indicated that he would step down not very long after the next election and said he was proud that the PNP would have alternatives to his leadership.
In fact, Patterson told editors that a survey by pollster Don Anderson, published by the Gleaner newspaper, that showed his party marginally ahead of the Opposition Jamaica Labour (JLP), accorded with his own perceptions of the trend on the ground.
"I look at it (an opinion survey) as indicating a trend and when that trend indicates what my own antenna tells me, I know I am on the right track," Patterson said at briefing at Vale Royal, the prime minister's official residence.
However, political analysts, including some PNP sources, said last night they were waiting for the next set of findings of the Observer/Stone polls before pronouncing the ruling party's prospects in the next election.
"The strong record of the Stone polls make them the ones to watch," said one source last night. "But the recent survey would give the PNP reason for optimism."
The Observer/Stone polls, done for the Observer by the highly-respected Stone Organisation, are expected to be published later this month when the pollsters complete their survey and analysis.
In their last survey in November, Stone found that the JLP's lead over the PNP had slipped by 3.4 percentage points, to five per cent, from a nine per cent lead two months earlier. In the November poll, the JLP's support was 25.6 per cent of the electorate, while the PNP's was 20.2 per cent, the same as in September.
Prior to November, most analysts had believed that the tide had turned irretrievably against the PNP and that Edward Seaga's JLP would return to government after more than a dozen years in the political wilderness.
But at 66, and facing his last election, Patterson believed that the JLP was destined to remain in Opposition.
"I owe it to the party and to the country to lead the party into the next election," Patterson said. "I believe we have more than a reasonable prospect of being successful in these elections."
He would "soon thereafter" be in a position to step aside, the prime minister said.
"I would like to enjoy some of the rest of my natural life without some of the pressures that inhere in public life and political leadership," he added.
Although he declined to name them, Patterson said that there were others in the wing capable of leading the PNP, a fact of which he was proud and had helped to engineer.
"If I go tomorrow, the party has clear alternatives," he said.
Patterson re-stated his often repeated statement that no one would have to tell him when it was time to go and that having made his decision, no one will be able to persuade him to stay, for it would be a clear position that he would have reached "in my own mind".
"It won't be a ploy, it won't be a gimmick," he said, a clear jibe at past declarations by Seaga that he was stepping down but then reversed.