REGION – Jamaicans gear up for vote
Jamaica’s political parties enter the final weekend of campaigning ahead of the February 25 general election with the two main political parties expected to stage mammoth rallies on Sunday.
The ruling People’s National party (PNP), which is seeking to retain power in this Caribbean Community (CARICOM) country, will hold its rally at the Catherine Hall Sports Complex in Montego Bay, while the main opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) will meet at Half-Way Tree, St Andrew.
In the last general election, the PNP won 42 of the 63 seats with the remainder going to the JLP. The two parties have already launched their manifestoes ahead of the polls and are both confident of victory.
There are more than 150 candidates nominated to contest the election with special voters, including Election Day workers and members of the security forces expected to cast their ballots on Monday.
The campaign has been marred by the deaths of at least four people at rallies associated with the opposition party and Deputy Commissioner of Police Clifford Blake, said law enforcement authorities a robust plan is in place to ensure the safety of people during the final days of the campaign.
“We have taken into account what happened at the JLP meeting in Montego Bay. We continue to assess our deployment strategies, and we work according to our needs assessment.
“In relation to the two meetings on Sunday, I can assure the public that we have provided adequate security plans and persons can go and feel comfortable. The security forces will be out in their numbers to provide adequate safety,” Blake told the Jamaica Gleaner newspaper.
But he said that he believes the population has matured and there has been a drastic decrease in political tribalism.
“The truth is that we have seen a lot of political maturity. The political electorate has grown, and so what we are seeing is persons from both political parties existing in the same place, which is commendable. We had few incidents on nomination day, and that is an indication that we have come a long way. We are still not taking any chances and we will be taking the usual precautions,” Blake added.
Meanwhile, the Jamaica Debates Commission (JDC) says it is disappointed at the decision of the PNP not to participate in political debates ahead of next week’s general election.
The JDC said that since 2002 successive governing and opposition parties have found it possible to set aside or resolve their issues so that they could participate in the debates in the national interest.
In a statement, the JDC said professional surveys conducted independently after the last two debates, the majority of members of the public noted that the Commission’s political debates assisted them in arriving at their decisions on how they eventually voted.