Oct 16 is E-Day
By Vernon Daley, Staff Reporter
Monday September 23, 2002
Prime Minister P.J. Patterson stretches out four fingers, signalling a fourth term at Half-Way Tree last night. -RUDOLPH BROWN, Staff Photographer
SPECULATION AND anxiety ended for Jamaicans last night when Prime Minister P.J. Patterson announced the date of the general election as Wednesday, October 16.
Nomination Day will be next Monday, September 30.
Prime Minister Patterson's announcement was met with loud cheers from thousands of People's National Party (PNP) supporters who poured into Half-Way Tree Square for the mass rally that replaced the public session of the party's 64th annual conference.
"Tomorrow morning (today) I shall, as Prime Minister of Jamaica, write a letter to the Governor-General and I shall advise him that it is time to dissolve Parliament with immediate effect," the Prime Minister said.
The country had been on election alert since Mr. Patterson announced last December that Jamaicans would go to the polls this year. This is the country's 14th parliamentary election since it gained Universal Adult Suffrage in 1944. Of the 13 general elections held, the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) has won six and the PNP seven.
The PNP boycotted the Decem-ber 15, 1983 snap election called by the JLP. Only JLP candidates were nominated in 54 of the 60 seats and they were elected unopposed. JLP candidates were elected in all of the other six constituencies which were contested.
The governing PNP, led by Mr. Patterson, is going for a fourth consecutive term in office while the Opposition is trying to reverse its string of losses and once again form the Government.
In the 1997 general election, the PNP won 50 seats and the JLP, 10. However, the JLP subsequently picked up two more seats - one through a by-election and the other, through an Election Court decision. The 1993 election saw the PNP getting 52 seats to the JLP's eight, while the 1989 election ended with 45 seats for the PNP and 15 for the JLP.
Recent public opinion polls have shown both parties in a statistical dead heat going into this year's election. The August Gleaner/Don Anderson poll showed support for the PNP at 26.1 per cent while that for the JLP was 22.4 per cent.
Prime Minister Patterson, who took over the reins of Government from Michael Manley in March 1992, will lead his party into an electoral race for the last time. However, there is speculation about whether this will be the last election campaign for his opponent Edward Seaga, who this year celebrated 40 years of service in representational politics in Jamaica.
Over the last few months, various sector leaders as well as politicians have argued that this election is likely to be the most peaceful the country has seen.
The optimism is based on key reforms in the electoral system to prevent fraud; a clean and settled voters' list, and the appointment of a Political Ombudsman to monitor a Code of Political Conduct signed on June 11 by the leaders of the two major parties.