Current Affairs

Current Affairs




JLP takes another seat
Recount shows Bertram losing to Parchment
Observer Reporter
Tuesday, October 22, 2002


BERTRAM... lost seat by a margin of 169

THE Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) yesterday picked up another parliamentary seat -- its 26th -- from Wednesday's general elections when the official recount showed that its candidate, Verna Parchment, had won in the North-West St Ann constituency over Local Government Minister Arnold Bertram.

In the initial count Wednesday night, Bertram was given a razor-thin majority of 26 over Parchment.

PARCHMENT... Bertram took the people for granted

But in the recount that started on Saturday, and concluded yesterday, the electoral officials held that Parchment had in fact won by a margin of 169, with 7,507 votes to Bertram's 7,338. Michael Asher of the National Democratic Movement/New Jamaica Alliance received 75 votes; and Toussaint Lewin, an independent candidate, 45. There were 65 rejected ballots.

The reversal of Bertram's victory means, unless the decision is challenged and Bertram ultimately prevails, that the PNP's immediate seat count in the new Parliament will be 34 -- a nine-seat majority over the JLP.

HENRY-WILSON...No decision has been made yet on whether we will ask for a magisterial recount

Bertram himself was unavailable for comment yesterday, but last night PNP general-secretary Maxine Henry-Wilson said the party was yet to make a decision on its next move.

"No decision has been made yet on whether we will ask for a magisterial recount of the votes," Henry-Wilson said. "The lawyers are meeting tomorrow (today)."

Other PNP sources had suggested that a request for a magisterial recount was on the cards and that the PNP might even make a claim of voting irregularities to the Constituted Authority -- the body that has the power to void an election in the event of fraud, certain procedural breaches and natural disasters.

In a case where the Constituted Authority -- comprised of the three independent members of the Electoral Advisory Committee, Professor Errol Miller, Dr Herbert Thompson and Dorothy Pine-McLarty, Privy Councillor Dennis Lalor and Justice Rance Langrin -- has already endorsed the conduct of the election, it could possibly put the issue to the specially constituted Election Court of three judges. The PNP itself could take a case to the Election Court or file an election petition in the regular court system.

JLP officials have themselves hinted at further action in other close races that went in favour of the PNP, and the same was likely to be the case with PNP candidates who came out on the losing end of tight finishes.

Bertram went into this election defending a majority of 1,600 from the 1997 general elections, when he gained 8,232 votes to beat the JLP's Ernie Smith (6,632) and the National Democratic Movement's Geoff Waugh, who gained 245 votes.

Yesterday, Parchment, a 39-year-old nurse who studied at PACE University in New York, claimed that Bertram's downfall was a failure at representation.

"He neglected the people, not only the JLP but in strong PNP areas," she told the Observer. "I went to Buxton Town and the people told me that from Mr Bertram won his seat they have not seen him... He took the people for granted."

"You have to be there before, during and after the event," she added.

Parchment, who, if she survives, will be among seven women in the House, said that she had worked the constituency for four-and-a-half years.

"I tell the people in the area all the time that I don't represent the party, I represent the constituency," she said. "I went house to house from eight in the mornings to sell myself to the people, everyday."