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Jamaica votes in general election amid pandemic today

Jamaicans head to the polls today (September 3) to elect a government in its 18th general election since Universal Adult Suffrage in 1944.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness (left) and Leader of the Opposition People’s National Party (Peter Phillips) at last Saturday’s leadership debate.

The two main contenders – the incumbent Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and the Opposition People’s National Party (PNP) – have expressed confidence in victory as they both seek a path to 32 parliamentary seats, the number of to form the government.

The JLP and PNP will have a candidate running in each of the island’s 63 constituencies, plus 13 candidates who are running as independents.

Voting begins at 7:00 a.m. and ends at 5:00 p.m. at the 6,984 polling stations across the island. However, electors in line at 5:00 p.m. will be allowed to vote.

The JLP will hope to repeat its win from four years ago when it took a surprise victory over the PNP. (File photo)

The Electoral Office of Jamaica (EOJ) has said it is working to ensure all is ready. “The team at the EOJ has been working diligently to ensure that all is in place for election day,” it said in a statement yesterday. “The constituencies met, workers have been briefed and supplies have been distributed. Several workers who withdrew from duty for various reasons have been replaced by trained reserves.”

The election is paramount and comes at a time when the nation is at a crossroads in its fight against the coronavirus pandemic climb, which continues to have significant negative impacts on the economy. With thousands out of work and many more getting reduced salaries due to the virus, the promises made since Prime Minister Andrew Holness announced the date under a month ago will be a consideration for many.

The roughly 1,913,410 registered voters were presented with an opportunity to weigh their options during three national debates on matters ranging from the economy, leadership and social issues last week.

Despite being down in the polls, the PNP remains confident it can win today’s general elections. (File photo)

The JLP will hope to repeat its performance from four years ago when the party delivered a surprise blow and took a one-seat victory over the then-PNP government.

The PNP, led by Dr Peter Phillips, will hope to defy the odds and pollsters and return Gordon House.

A recent poll Bill Johnson poll, commissioned by the Jamaica Observer, shows the JLP holding a 14-point advantage over the PNP from a sample of 1,000 Jamaicans of voting-age.

Currently, the JLP has 34 parliamentary seats after adding another two in by-elections in 2017 and 2019.