PNP on the upswing, JLP has work to do – Prof Hope Loop Jamaica

The content originally appeared on: Jamaica News Loop News

Public commentator, Professor Donna Hope of The University of the West Indies (UWI), says, although the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) was leading in the parish count after Monday’s local government election and had declared victory, it’s the People’s National Party (PNP) that would have come out of the poll with the momentum.

Hope, a professor of culture, gender and society at The UWI’s Mona campus, noted that the polls were trending against the JLP before the election and are still trending in that direction “after the people delivered the most important poll” at the ballot box.

She took this position Tuesday, pointing out that the PNP had built up a sizeable lead in the popular vote, which could give it control of the prized Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation (KSAMC), which ended in a 20-20 tie after Monday night’s preliminary count.

The popular vote count showed the PNP ahead with just over 300,000 to 282,000 for the JLP. The PNP, which won 98 electoral divisions in 2016 to the 130 won by the JLP, had won 102 to the JLP’s 95 as of Monday night, with up to 30 that were yet to be counted.

Hope told Loop News that if Monday’s exercise were a general election, the JLP would have lost 30 per cent of the 49 parliamentary seats it currently holds.

“The PNP has gotten a very uplifting mandate. They’re rising high, they know that they are in the upswing, and the JLP has been given a strong signal that they need to do some work and they also need to make up some of the ground they have lost from issues such as the salary increases that they granted”.

Hope cited that teachers voted on Monday against the massive salary increases that the government gave itself and against the challenges they faced while being given an increase of roughly 20 per cent, while increases for cabinet ministers and members of parliament were as high as 250 per cent.

The public commentator said some public sector workers who felt they were short-changed also voted against the government.

“People also voted for personal reasons,” she added.

Professor Donna Hope

The professor argued that although it was the local poll, people were not necessarily only voting for better roads and improved water supply.

“People were voting more macro in nature; we’re talking about macro political activities. People were voting against things and for things,” she said. 

Hope pointed out that election took on a flavour akin to a presidential election in the United States.

“That’s why the popular vote came out in favour of the PNP; people were responding, in a lot of ways, to some of the issues that they see around them.

“For example, where I am [in the Trafalgar Division], people are responding to the ‘concretisation’ of Kingston and St Andrew, a lot of people are very angry about it. People are upset about the encroachment into their personal space, and those people went out and voted against the Jamaica Labour Party for that reason – older people, more established people,” said Hope.

She said the PNP did well in the Corporate Area, because its candidates were on the ground.

“They did a lot of work on the ground; and they campaigned in specific areas more explicitly than in others”.

Said Hope: “I think the PNP had a specific agenda, and I believe the JLP’s machinery on the ground was not as impressive because they were focusing on being in government and not being inside of the divisions as they should”.

A combo image of JLP President Andrew Holness (left) and PNP President Mark Golding

She argued that regardless of how many municipal corporations are won by either party, the PNP was the happier of the two coming out of the election. She said this was evident in the celebratory mood at the PNP’s Old Hope Road headquarters compared to the subdued atmosphere at the JLP’s Belmont Road headquarters on Monday night.

“The People’s National Party knows they’re on the upswing, they’ve seen it, they’ve sensed it, and the JLP knows that it has a lot of work to do between now and the next election,” the UWI professor said.

She also said the PNP winning more electoral divisions than it did in the 2016 election and being competitive in JLP areas, showed them “clawing back themselves into a position of strength”.

As to Golding’s future as leader of the PNP, Hope said “it’s very settled. I don’t think anyone is going to have any questions about that going forward, regardless of what the final count says, because it cannot be that it is going to be seen as an issue anymore because the voters on the ground ‘presidentialise’ or ‘prime ministerise’ the local election. “They were voting in the direction of the party and not in the direction of the councillors”.

At the end of the preliminary count, the JLP was on course to winning the 17th Local Government Election with Electoral Office of Jamaica data showing them winning or leading in seven municipal corporations to the PNP’s four.

The PNP was also on course to win the Portmore Municipal Corporation and return Leon Thomas as mayor.

The final count got under way on Tuesday.