Jamaican troops guard election offices after tight poll

Jamaican Labour Party initially declared winner of general election, but further counting has seen contest tighten.

    Jamaican troops guard election offices after tight poll
    The Electoral Commission said on Monday the earliest it could determine the winner was Wednesday [Gilbert Bellamy/Reuters]

    Jamaican reservist soldiers have reinforced security at electoral offices after a final count of votes cast in last week's general election narrowed the winning party's majority to one seat in the heavily indebted Caribbean nation.

    The opposition Jamaican Labour Party (JLP) was declared the victor of Thursday's closely fought election but after a second count authorities stripped it of one seat, reducing it to 32 of 63 seats. One more constituency remains to be recounted.

    The tight election reflects division about Jamaica's economy, with the winners promising low taxes and jobs after years of austerity under an IMF programme. The ruling People's National Party was credited by many with restoring economic order.

    People and Power - Jamaica's silent children

    The Electoral Commission said on Monday the earliest it could determine the winner was Wednesday. JLP leader Andrew Holness had been due to be sworn in as prime minister on Tuesday, local media said.

    The JLP spokeswoman said on Monday that the party would call for a magisterial review of the results in the constituency of South East St Mary, where its victory was overturned.

    The final count there showed the party losing by just nine votes, after 74 votes were rejected. Such a review would lead to more delays.

    The country's military, the Jamaican Defence Force (JDF), called out to ensure security during the election, will now stay on the streets throughout this week, with additional help from its reservist force.

    "The JDF is acutely aware of the current political situation. Like all law-abiding citizens, we want a speedy, safe, and peaceful resolution," said spokesman Major Basil Jarrett.

    A JLP win could signal a move away from the ruling party's wage freezes and spending cuts. The JLP has instead promised jobs and sharply lower taxes.

    On Monday, the party's spokeswoman said that it had told the IMF of its reservations about the austerity programme, which includes a target of a 7 percent of GDP primary surplus.

    "The relationship is quite positive and one which we expect to continue," JLP spokeswoman Kamina Johnson-Smith said, but she added that the party had communicated its concerns to the IMF.

    SOURCE: Reuters


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