Provisional results showed Jamaica’s opposition party narrowly winning a general election on Thursday, with promises of jobs and hefty tax cuts that appealed to voters weary of the current government’s IMF-mandated austerity measures.
The Jamaican Labour Party (JLP) won 33 of 63 parliamentary seats with almost all the votes counted, the electoral commission website showed.
Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller’s People’s National Party had been predicted to win, but polls had tightened in the last week. The PNP took 30 parliamentary seats, the provisional results showed.
In hailing the victory, the 85-year-old former JLP leader and prime minister Edward Seaga told party supporters at the party’s headquarters that his heart was filled with gladness and joy. A frail-looking Seaga also thanked the electorate for protecting the country’s democracy and for keeping the political parties in check.
The current JLP leader and Prime Minister-elect Andrew Holness also addressed the large gathering, thanking the people of Jamaica for the victory which he said showed the strength of the island’s democracy.
“As you know, it has been a long journey but we are here because we have been faithful to the Jamaican people. We have carried a message of hope. A message that Jamaica can be a better place,” said a beaming but fatigue-sounding Holness, who is very grateful for the win.
He warned that it was not the end of a journey but the beginning of a process of changing Jamaica, while promising that it would not be government as usual in the country.
“We don’t take it that we have won a prize, we have been given stewardship of the country and we stand accountable for our stewardship,” he said, adding that “we are under no illusion as to the ability of the Jamaican people to hold their government to account.
“We will grow the Jamaican economy, we will create jobs,” he said, promising to address the many social ills confronting Jamaicans while seeking to balance the fiscal accounts of the country, which he said was not an impossible task.
In conceding defeat, Simpson-Miller called on her supporters not to be angry but to give her a bright smile.
“I know you are hurting and we feel it too,” she told them. However, she commended the JLP on its victory even though she said the party must leave “nothing to chance” during the upcoming recount of ballots.