Explainer: The popular vote, the tie and 7 mayors each for JLP, PNP Loop Jamaica

The content originally appeared on: Jamaica News Loop News

At the end of the official count on Thursday by the Electoral Office of Jamaica (EOJ) for the Local Government Election held on February 26, seven parishes were declared for the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and five for the People’s National Party (PNP).

Those results, as put out by the EOJ, indicate that the governing party won the election, but, not so fast, says the PNP.

The Opposition party has pointed out that it will be appointing the same number of mayors as the JLP—seven. In fact, the PNP has declared that it won the 2024 Local Government Election.

The JLP has since expressed grave concern over the PNP’s response to the results as outlined by the EOJ and accused the Opposition party of attempting to “obfuscate the election’s outcome”.

Based on the EOJ’s numbers, the JLP has won St Thomas, St James, Trelawny, Clarendon, Portland, St Ann, and St Elizabeth, while the PNP prevailed in Westmoreland, Hanover, Manchester, St Catherine, and St Mary, which it flipped from the JLP.

However, the PNP is also claiming victory in the Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation (KSAMC), which ended in a 20-20 tie, and in the Portmore City Municipality, which it won with nine of the 12 divisions while retaining the mayor’s position.

The PNP will select the next mayor of the KSAMC, considered the prize among the municipal corporations, after winning the popular vote in Kingston and St Andrew.

PNP General Secretary, Dr Dayton Campbell, told Loop News that the Mayor-elect for Kingston is Andrew Swaby.

Swaby, who previously served as minority leader in the KSAMC, where the JLP’s Delroy Williams was mayor, retained his seat in the Vineyard Town Division and will now be elevated to the top job.

In this video, PNP supporters were jubilant on day two of the final count in the Local Government Election outside the EOJ, in anticipation of securing the popular vote in the Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation.

Where there is a tie, the party that receives fewer votes appoints the deputy mayor. It is not clear if Williams will now serve in that capacity.

What exactly is the popular vote?

It refers to the political party that receives the most votes in an election. Of note is that a party can win the popular vote and still lose an election like in the 2016 presidential election in the United States, when Hilary Clinton received over three million more votes than Donald Trump but lost.

The PNP received more votes nationally than the JLP and won more electoral divisions and parishes than it did in the 2016 elections, but it still won fewer parishes (5-7) than the JLP, according to the official EOJ count.

Although the PNP will chair the KSAMC and appoint the mayor, having received more votes than the JLP, the EOJ and the Electoral Commission of Jamaica classify it as a tie and not a win.

The 2016 Local Government Election

After the 2016 Local Government Election, the JLP was declared the winner in eight parishes, the PNP in four, while the parties tied in St Thomas, having won five divisions each.

On that occasion, the JLP, having won the popular vote, appointed the mayor, with the PNP appointing the deputy mayor.

The balance of power in St Thomas shifted, however, after the death of the JLP councillor for the Trinityville Division, Lambert Rawle, in November 2022, and the PNP’s Hubert Williams was appointed mayor.

Present-day election results re Portmore

Of significance is that despite the 7-5 split in favour of the JLP, plus the tie as announced by the EOJ, both parties will still be appointing seven mayors. That’s because, in addition to appointing the mayor for the KSAMC, the PNP also retained the Portmore City Municipality.

Some persons have argued that with the PNP winning more votes in the KSAMC and winning in Portmore, the final results should be declared a draw.

In the case of Portmore, the only municipal corporation where the mayor is directly elected, the councillors sit in the St Catherine Municipal Corporation since Portmore, as of now, is not a parish. They also sit independently in Portmore and perform the functions of other municipal corporations.

Dayton Campbell, PNP General Secretary (File photo)

“Why would Portmore not be counted? Don’t we have a mayor in Portmore and a council (municipality) in Portmore? What would cause us not to count Portmore?” Campbell asked.

“In my view, I think it is ridiculous [not to count Portmore as a win], because it is well established by law that there’s a municipality of Portmore that comprises the mayor and 12 councillors. We both went into the election saying that we’re going to win Portmore, which meant that persons acknowledged that there’s a municipality there that we’re competing for,” added the PNP general secretary.

Continuing, Campbell said:

They (Portmore) have their own mayor who is directly elected; they have their own revenues that they allocate. They meet just by themselves, even though there’s a meeting in St Catherine that they also attend. So I don’t know why we would’ve excluded them and that is unlawful if we were to do so, because the law is very clear that there is a municipality of Portmore.

Even if you want to say six, plus Portmore, but it can’t be excluded,” Campbell insisted.

PNP on the KSAMC tie

Regarding the tie in the KSAMC, Campbell argued that the law would have contemplated the possibility of a tie and how the matter should be dealt with.

He pointed to Paragraph 61, Subsection 5 of the Eighth Schedule of the Representation of the People Act (ROPA), which allows the returning officer to cast his vote in favour of the side that wins the popular vote, allowing that party to appoint the chairman of the municipal corporation, and the other side to appoint the deputy chairman.

“We went into an election where the JLP had the mayor of the KSAMC. After the election, the PNP has the mayor. How else would that happen if we (the PNP) didn’t win it?” asked Campbell.

“How can you be in charge if you didn’t win?” he added.

Campbell said there were no such questions raised after the 2016 election when the JLP was allowed to appoint the mayor of Morant Bay after the parties ended in a 5-5 tie in St Thomas.

EOJ on a tie and the popular vote

Loop News contacted Director Elections Glasspole Brown and asked him why the EOJ does not declare a win for the party that has the majority of the popular vote when there is a tie.

“Our role is to provide results, not to determine who’s the winner or loser. Our role is to count the ballots and declare who are the individual winners,” Brown explained, while also pointing to the ROPA.

Director of Elections Glasspole Brown

JLP on PNP’s Local Government Election position

Meanwhile, Local Government Minister Desmond McKenzie, speaking on Nationwide Radio on Thursday, took issue with some of the claims made by Campbell. McKenzie was asked about whether Portmore was a municipality or a sub-municipality.

Responding, McKenzie said: “Conveniently, we choose to fix things the way we want in order to look good. The fact is that there is no separation of Portmore and St Catherine. So Portmore and St Catherine are actually one because the Portmore councillors sit in St Catherine and sit in Portmore, so I don’t know, it is for convenience, I’ve never heard it before [that Portmore is separate], so I just brush that aside as another part of the mischief and the misinformation that is passed on to the public.”

In a release Friday, the JLP emphasised the importance of the ECJ and the EOJ, institutions globally respected for upholding electoral integrity.

The party also accused the PNP of undermining the institutions and eroding public confidence in them by disseminating “false information and misleading graphics” on social media, which suggest a PNP victory.

A combo image of Prime Minister Andrew Holness (left) and Opposition Leader Mark Golding

The governing party also underscored the need to respect and accept election results as a fundamental tenet of democratic practice and the expression of the will of the Jamaican people.