Por­tia on ‘trial’ Po­lit­i­cal an­a­lysts say elec­tion re­sults will point op­po­si­tion leader to the door

Jamaica Gleaner - - FRONT PAGE - Jo­van John­son Staff Re­porter

TO­DAY’S LO­CAL gov­ern­ment elec­tions is not just about elect­ing mu­nic­i­pal coun­cil­lors across Ja­maica, but also serves as a ‘ref­er­en­dum’ on Por­tia Simp­son Miller’s lead­er­ship of the Peo­ple’s Na­tional Party (PNP), ac­cord­ing to po­lit­i­cal com­men­ta­tors.

Kevin O’Brien Chang and Troy Caine, also a po­lit­i­cal his­to­rian, be­lieve that Simp­son Miller has more to lose than the gov­ern­ing Ja­maica Labour Party (JLP) if her party does not end this evening with con­trol of most of the 13 mu­nic­i­pal cor­po­ra­tions. “A de­feat for the JLP would have less ef­fect on the party than it would on the PNP con­sid­er­ing that they have just gone into power,” Caine said. “The way the point­ers are now is that they seem to be the party in the as­cen­dancy not so much be­cause the party has set­tled down, but the fact is that the last elec­tion in Fe­bru­ary, the party, had it been parish coun­cil elec­tions, would have won a very, very hand­some vic­tory. “I don’t know what it will take to up­root Mrs Simp­son Miller.

She does not seem to be af­fected by the worst of things that has hap­pened to ei­ther her or the party,” he added.

Caine also said that he was not cer­tain that the party had healed from the in­fight­ing that plagued it in the lead-up to the gen­eral elec­tion this year, point­ing to the heck­ling and Simp­son Miller’s out­burst at a St Ann party meet­ing ear­lier this month

That view res­onates with O’Brien Chang, who said Simp­son Miller would be on ‘trial’ to­day, fac­ing a jury of a num­ber greater than the 2,669 who par­tic­i­pated in the pres­i­den­tial con­test in Septem­ber in which she so­lid­i­fied her grip on the party.

O’Brien Chang said it is not far­fetched to be­lieve that in­ter­nal fig­ures in the party may wish that the party loses the elec­tions to has­ten her de­par­ture.

“Pol­i­tics is a vi­cious game. If you want to get to the top, even in their own party, they would want to snap the other per­son to get to the top.

“It would be a bit of shock to them (JLP) if they lost,” he said. “For the PNP, there are big­ger im­pli­ca­tions. A big loss would dam­age Mrs Simp­son Miller be­cause a lot of peo­ple are al­ready say­ing she’s 70, she should go. And if she loses the elec­tions badly, peo­ple will say, ‘Well, you’ve lost four of the six elec­tions you’ve run’.”

He added: “If PNP wins, Por­tia is go­ing to say, ‘Ahh! I tell you guys, peo­ple still love me.’ Even if the JLP loses, An­drew Hol­ness is not go­ing any­where. His lead­er­ship is not in ques­tion. It is Por­tia Simp­son Miller who is un­der the gun more.”

Paul Burke, the out­go­ing gen­eral sec­re­tary of the PNP, said to­day’s elec­tion could act in some way as a ref­er­en­dum on Simp­son Miller’s 10-year-old lead­er­ship.

“Lo­cal gov­ern­ment elec­tions are mainly about your strong sup­port­ers who pay at­ten­tion to that elec­tion. Gen­eral mid­dlein­come, up­per-in­come level peo­ple don’t come out and vote. I think she has a clear timetable in her mind, win or lose.”

In the af­ter­math of the polls­de­fy­ing gen­eral elec­tion loss in Fe­bru­ary, Lisa Hanna emerged as one of the PNP voices call­ing for ‘re­newal’. Then, Peter Bunt­ing gave an in­di­ca­tion that he could chal­lenge but backed off as forces of strength gath­ered around Simp­son Miller.

Dr Karl Blythe, who even­tu­ally made it a con­test, lost badly in the polls but cel­e­brated what, he said, was a mes­sage sent to Simp­son Miller that her time had come to leave.

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