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Current Prime Minister Andrew Holness of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) has been re-elected in a sweeping nationwide victory for the conservative ruling party.
Making history as the first JLP leader since 1967 to be elected in two consecutive and contested general elections, Holness won his seat in the Saint Andrew West Central parliamentary constituency over People's National Party (PNP) candidate Patrick Roberts.
Earlier Thursday, PNP President Peter Phillips, Jamaica's Opposition leader, said he would retire from politics and step down from his post if the PNP loses the general election.
With results still trickling in, yet over 80% of ballot boxes counted, the JLP leads in 49 seats, whereas the social-democratic PNP has claimed 14. A total of 126 candidates contested 63 parliamentary seats Thursday, in an election convened by Holness just three weeks ago amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. While the vast majority of Western Jamaica has gone to the JLP, the party has also claimed victories in several Kingston constituencies that, in the past decades have been PNP strongholds.
Jamaican political analysts note that JPL's well-financed and methodically structured electoral machinery allowed them to win over young voters and appeal, even if only in word, to the material needs for those living in poverty and suffering from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Probably a pretty big Jamaica Labour Party victory shaping up. The Jamaica Labour Party is actually Jamaica's major conservative party under incumbent PM Andrew Holness; right now, they're on track for the biggest result for any party in decades https://t.co/TslzcuSzqs
While reports of violence and low voter turnout have marked this electoral cycle, strong health and safety measures were put in place given the COVID-19 pandemic, allowing those positive with the virus to vote at a designated time in the late afternoon and their contacts to vote afterward. All voters were required to wear masks, respect physical distancing and wash their hands upon entering polling stations, yet outside of the polls, many of these practices were not observed, local media reports.
Facing a severe economic downturn, with empty hotels and beaches, Jamaicans ultimately chose the center-right candidate promising to control spending, keep the central bank independence and adopt a strong pandemic response, as opposed to the center-left candidate, Phillips, who vowed to raise tourism workers' wages, increase health spending and earmark lands for Rastafarian settlements.