JAMAICA – Last lap
Parties in Jamaica wrap up election campaigns
KINGSTON –– Both the People’s National Party (PNP) and the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), after a bruising campaign across the island, wrapped up their political activities last night, as they prepared for tomorrow’s general election, which pundits believe will be a battle down to the wire.
The law requires that all campaign activities, including newspaper, television and radio advertising, meeting and rallies cease a full day before the poll.
The release of opinion polls a day before the election is also not allowed.
The governing PNP last night held a mass rally in Portia Simpson Miller Square — formerly Three Miles and named after the party’s president and prime minister — in her St Andrew South Western constituency.
PNP spokesman Delano Frankyn told the Jamaica Observer yesterday that Simpson Miller, prior to last night’s rally, had toured sections of St Elizabeth, St James, St Mary, and St Ann as she tried to shore up support for candidates in several constituencies.
Franklyn said the rally was for the 15 constituencies in Region 3, but he expected party supporters from St Catherine and other nearby parishes would attend.
He said today would be used for indoor activities, where all candidates would make final preparations for tomorrow’s vote. JLP Leader Andrew Holness, in addition to meeting with party workers, last night addressed a divisional rally in Windsor Castle in the Portland Western constituency, where high-profile party member Daryl Vaz is the incumbent. Holness, in a national address last night, again sold his tax plan to the electorate, insisting the proposal to exempt Jamaicans earning up to $1.5 million annually from income tax would not be inflationary.
“We’ve been working on this plan for two years. We know how it will be funded,” the opposition leader said. “It will not hurt the budget. It will spur growth and it will not have an inflationary effect on the economy.”
Added Holness: “The economics behind our plan is sound. We’ve done it before –– in 2009 when we doubled the threshold. Did the economy crash then? We did it in the midst of a recession, and that is what helped to stabilize the economy during recession.
Now we’re going to use it as a tool to spur growth, and stimulate the economy and create jobs for you.”
Vaz, in a phone interview with the Observer, said the meeting was planned at the last minute as the party leader had not got a chance to stop in the parish in his trek across the island in the gruelling campaign.
“I am in no trouble in my constituency,” he said.
Party leaders have, over the years, been known to visit constituencies in which their candidates are considered weak in the run-up to a national election.
Vaz, in the meantime, claimed that the PNP had planned a mass rally in the prime minister’s constituency in a last-minute bid to regain momentum lost over the last two weeks.
“I have never seen a momentum like over the past two weeks after the debate over Andrew’s [Holness] house, the failure of the PNP to participate in a national debate, and the JLP’s tax plan. It is going to be a political tsunami on election night,” an upbeat Vaz quipped.
“The 58 per cent turnout predicted by [pollster] Don Anderson would be similar to the 2007 election in which the JLP won,” he said.
In fact, he is predicting a higher voter turnout than predicted by Anderson, saying that “there are many people who are going to vote, but you will not capture them in a poll as they are not willing to discuss politics”.
The December, 2011 election, which resulted in the JLP being voted out of office after just one term, saw a 53 per cent turnout of electors, in which the PNP shocked the nation by capturing 42 of the 63 parliamentary seats. The remainder went to the JLP.
According to Vaz, compared to 2011 where there was only a 53 per cent turnout, there could even be a higher turnout than the 58 per cent predicted by Anderson, whose poll was conducted in collaboration with the RJR Group.
Vaz said, too, that all JLP candidates would spend today in their constituencies finalizing arrangements for tomorrow’s vote.
In the meantime, the JLP, in a release last night, said it had received information from credible sources that electoral ink was removed from the stock issued by the Electoral Office for the purposes of voting by the security forces and election day workers on Monday.
“We reported the matter to the political ombudsman, the commissioner of police, and the chairman of the Electoral Commission of Jamaica.
We expect a full investigation by all relevant parties,” said the release. “We urge all Jamaicans, whether you are an election day worker, voter, or just a concerned citizen, to be on the lookout for any misconduct during the election process leading up to and on election day,” said party spokeswoman Kamina Johnson Smith.
“We will not stand for any attempt at subverting the rights of Jamaicans to vote, nor allow our democratic process to be tainted. Our supporters will be on alert for any attempt at voter fraud.”
The PNP, however, described the allegations as “disingenuous and mischievous”. The PNP’s Franklyn said: “[It] is absolute and unmitigated nonsense!
The JLP’s position is reflective of a party that is in a state of panic and is trying to frighten the Jamaican people and tarnish the reputation of the PNP.”