St Mary holds most in­ter­est in trio of by-elections to­day

Jamaica Gleaner - - FRONT PAGE - Arthur Hall As­so­ciate Edi­tor

IT HAS been a cash­fu­elled by-elec­tion sea­son. The Gov­ern­ment has ad­mit­ted spend­ing some $250 mil­lion on in­fra­struc­ture works in the con­stituency, but the Op­po­si­tion says the ex­pen­di­ture has been closer to $500 mil­lion. But that is just the start of it. What nei­ther the Ja­maica Labour Party (JLP) nor the Peo­ple’s Na­tional Party (PNP) will say is how much they have spent to woo per­sons to place their votes be­side Dr Nor­man Dunn or Dr Shane Alexis.

“We have spent a tidy sum, but it pales in com­par­i­son to what the JLP has spent, and don’t tell me you haven’t seen them,” said one se­nior PNP of­fi­cial yes­ter­day.

“They are go­ing around of­fer­ing peo­ple ev­ery­thing to vote or not vote, and we are not into that,” added the PNP of­fi­cial, who asked not to be named.

It was a sim­i­lar story from a source close to the lead­er­ship of the JLP, who spoke on con­di­tion that he not be named.

“They are spend­ing, we are spend­ing, and we ac­cept that it takes cash to care, so we have had to spend,” said the JLP of­fi­cial.

“What we have found is that when a man would work for $5,000 in the 2016 gen­eral elec­tion, he is ask­ing for $15,000 and $20,000 now,” added the se­nior Labourite.

The mas­sive ex­pen­di­ture is not sur­pris­ing to

po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst and Gleaner colum­nist Mark Wig­nall. “Both po­lit­i­cal par­ties have so much at stake, so both par­ties would go full throt­tle to se­cure a win,” said Wig­nall, as he noted that the prize is more than a seat in the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives.

A vic­tory for Dunn would give the JLP a three-seat ma­jor­ity in Par­lia­ment and pro­vide Prime Min­is­ter An­drew Hol­ness with more room to ma­noeu­vre, in­clud­ing the Cabi­net reshuf­fle he has hinted at. A de­feat would not be fatal to Hol­ness, but it would be a painful slap on the wrist over the per­for­mance of his ad­min­is­tra­tion since it was elected in 2016.

For the PNP, a vic­tory for Alexis would be the fil­lip it needs af­ter its nar­row de­feat in 2016, and an in­di­ca­tor that it is on track with its per­for­mance in op­po­si­tion. If it fails to hang on to the seat it has lost only once since 1989, that could be a body blow for the party and its re­cently elected pres­i­dent Dr Peter Phillips.

“The JLP has been all ac­tion on the ground, and I would be sur­prised at a PNP vic­tory,” Wig­nall said yes­ter­day, even as he em­pha­sised that it will come down to which party brings out the ma­jor­ity of the 25,251 per­sons reg­is­tered to vote in the con­stituency.

“There could be rain, and the weather will play a part, but I think both par­ties are pre­pared for that. What will de­ter­mine the turnout is the mo­bil­i­sa­tion and which party can turn sup­port into votes,” added Wig­nall.

The in­ter­nal polls con­ducted by the JLP sees it headed for a com­fort­able vic­tory, while the PNP polls show its can­di­date clos­ing a four percentage-point deficit one month ago to be in a dead heat go­ing into to­day’s elec­tion.

By 8 o’clock this evening, the na­tion should know who has been elected to suc­ceed the late Dr Win­ston Green, who won the seat for the PNP by a mere five votes the last time around.


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