MONTEGO BAY, St James — Though there has been no indication of a date for eligible Jamaicans to vote in a long-overdue local government election, general secretary of the People's National Party (PNP) Dr Dayton Campbell has insisted that the Opposition is ready for action.
"It has been a long preparation and I think we are ready for the election. We continue to fine-tune things as we await the date. We are not the ones calling the election, so all we can do is ensure that we are prepared for whenever the elections are announced," Dr Campbell said.
The Local Government Election, which was last held in 2016, has been pushed back twice after it became due in 2019. The first time was attributed to COVID-19 while the second postponement was pitched as an effort to prevent disunity during the country's 60th anniversary of Independence that was observed last year.
The Representation of the People (Postponement of Elections to Municipal Corporations and City Municipalities) Act 2022 was amended and tabled in Parliament in January of last year to temporarily allow the Local Government Election to be delayed until February 2023. The first Bill was passed in November 2020 to push the election back no later than February 2022.
According to Dr Campbell, the PNP has been doing extensive work "on the ground" to ensure its full preparedness for the Local Government Election which was expected to be held in 2020. The general secretary told the Jamaica Observer that has the party not only identifying its candidates, but moving to have all boots on the ground.
"The party has been anticipating an election from as far back as 2019, so in terms of readiness, there are several things that we have been doing to get ourselves to [that] state. The first thing would obviously be to ensure that there are standard bearers in place and as far as the party is concerned, there are [over 200] divisions plus the mayoral seat for Portmore and we have all but five candidates in place. So I think we have about 99 per cent of our candidates in place," Dr Campbell said.
"We have done several checks and we have done the assessments. Our team went out to the different parishes to meet with the candidates and their teams to ensure that there is a campaign team, a campaign manager, and a road manager in place. We have ensured that they have targets for the division, they are canvassing, they have their workers in place and they have the paraphernalia," he explained.
Dr Campbell further told the Sunday Observer that special emphasis has been placed on the marginal divisions.
"We have also polled the marginal divisions that we are targeting to ensure that we can have an idea as to where we are and what the people are saying about the party, the candidates, and our polling, so we can see how to adjust and what we are doing going forward," the general secretary said.
As reported by the Electoral Commission of Jamaica, after the last Local Government Election in 2016, the PNP held 97 seats across the country while the ruling Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) held 116 seats.
While the Opposition party experienced a major loss in St James after the last election, Dr Campbell is confident that it is a parish in which there will be a major upset in the next local government election. In 2016 the JLP took a majority of the seats in the St James Municipal Corporation after they managed to win 13 divisions. On the other hand, the PNP won four seats.
"At the end of the last local election in 2016, we had four councillors in St James. Two have since been removed based on a vote that took place in the council regarding their attendance in the COVID period, so we are down to two now," he said.
"We have done repeated polling in St James and I think we will be able to give a good showing there. That is one of the councils that I think we will be able to perform well in," Dr Campbell told the Sunday Observer.
He said that the party has been paying extra attention to the candidates it has selected to head to the polls in the western parish.
"You know, the approach with these things is to identify a candidate who fits the profile of the division to ensure that you know what the targets are. So you look at the historical data in the division and you project as to how many persons you think will support. We also need to get out there and press the flesh with the voters, so that is what we are in the process of doing," the PNP general secretary said.
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