Malvern and Ipswich could determine who governs St Elizabeth
A mere two votes separated the People's National Party (PNP) Cyril Martin from the Jamaica Labour Party's (JLP) Ernest Hendricks in the March 2012 local government election in New Market, St Elizabeth.
Only 28 per cent of the 7,724 persons eligible to cast ballots voted in that election and five of those votes were spoilt. Fast-forward to 2016, Martin is still on the ballot for the PNP, while the JLP has replaced Hendricks with Richard Solomon.
The PNP won nine of the 15 local government divisions in 2012. However, having lost the parish three constituencies to one in the general election in February, the party is under pressure to hold on to the parish council.
"It remains competitive," Everton Fisher, the mayor of Black River and PNP candidate for the Balaclava division said.
"I would not want to say it's gone because I know, based on the ground work that has happened and the promises that have not been fulfilled for the past nine months, the PNP is within touching distance of winning back the council," Fisher said.
The PNP has lost ground in Brompton, Ipswich and Malvern.
"Malvern and Ipswich will be the decider. It will be tight, but the PNP should retain both. New Market is left to see what will happen because when you win by two, you have to be cautiously optimistic," Fisher said.
In Malvern, the PNP has nominated Richard Parchment, who lost his parliamentary re-election bid in February. He is up against the JLP's Donald Simpson. Prince Mugabe Waite, brother of Basil Waite, is the PNP's standard-bearer in Ipswich. The JLP's candidate is Kenroy Samuels.
But the JLP feels that at least four PNP divisions could go green on election day. Jeremy Palmer, the party's candidate in Pedro Plains, said that Brompton and Black River are likely to be won by the JLP.
"There are four marginal seats in St Elizabeth," Palmer said. Brompton, a traditionally strong PNP area, was won by 40 votes by the JLP's Floyd Green in the general election, while the PNP's Hugh Buchanan won Black River by 187 votes. The PNP won Brompton by 365 votes in the last local government election and Black River by 418 votes.
"I look at the figures, and the figures, as they are, they favour us," Palmer said. "My major preoccupation is for my party to win the council and that is very likely. The probability is high."