Daraine Luton, Sunday Gleaner Reporter
Jamaica Labour Party supporters in a jubilant mood at last year's public session of the party's two-day annual conference held at the National Arena, St. Andrew. - Ricardo Makyn/Staff Photographer
Should Prime Minster Bruce Golding not announce the date for local government elections in his address to the nation tonight, it is likely that he will do so at the Jamaica Labour Party's (JLP) 64th annual conference on November 18.
Karl Samuda, general secretary of the JLP, told The Sunday Gleaner that a massive show of support is expected at the party's public session of the conference, and that party supporters would leave with the impetus to sweep the election.
"Look for a bumper conference on Sunday, November 18. We are going to leave conference with that spirit to do very well in the elections," Samuda said.
Local government elections, which were postponed from their original July date, are due by December. Golding has said he does not want the elections delayed.
The JLP, which won the September 3 general election by a margin of six seats (34-28) in the 60-seat House of Representatives, swept the 2003 Local Government Elections.
According to Samuda, the party plans to win big in the upcoming elections.
"We plan to make a statement, with them," he declared.
Milton Brown, mayor of May Pen, says the party is not only confident of victory once more, but it is also going to win some key councils.
"We are going to win Portmore ... I am not certain about the mayor though," he says.
The populous Portmore municipality in St. Catherine is the only one where a mayor is directly elected. The incumbent mayor is George Lee, who will be seeking re-election against the JLP's Keith Hinds.
In the 2003 Local Government Elections, the PNP won six of the 11 Portmore councils. But despite capturing all three parliamentary seats in the September 3 general election, the PNP only won five divisions. The JLP won six.
Buchanan not alarmed
However, Donald Buchanan, general secretary of the Opposition People's National Party, is not alarmed that his party dropped a division in the general election.
"We feel confident about the election of George Lee as mayor and that we will have a majority of councillors in the Portmore Municipality," Buchanan told The Sunday Gleaner.
There are two crucial Portmore seats going into the election - Greater Portmore East, which the JLP won by one vote, and Bridgeport, which the JLP won by 24.
Buchanan said the PNP would win both divisions, as well as the Westchester division, which the JLP won by 353 votes. The JLP won the division by 98 votes in the 2003 Local Government Elections.
Of the 40 council seats in St. Catherine, the PNP won 17 in the recent general election, while the JLP won 23.
Meanwhile, along with the Kingston and St. Andrew Corporation, St. Catherine is expected to be a humdinger of a race. The JLP won 21 of the 40 councils in Kingston and St. Andrew during the recent general election, the same as in the 2003 Local Government Elections.
Buchanan says he expects the PNP to perform "creditably well" in the KSAC.
"The KSAC is quite challenging, but we believe that we can win it," he said.
The two closest councils in that division are Kintyre, which the PNP won by six votes, and Trafalgar Road, which the JLP won by 66.
Mayor Desmond McKenzie is the current chairman of the KSAC, and Brown believes that the "image of him being a hard-working mayor should work in the favour of the ruling council."
Apart from Westmoreland, the JLP swept all 12 parish councils, plus the KSAC in the 2003 polls.
The PNP later added Portland, after Mayor Benny White turned his back on the Labourites and joined the PNP.
In the recent general election, the PNP won most councils in the parishes of Westmoreland and Manchester, but lost Portland, while the others remained with the JLP.
Despite this, Buchanan says that whenever Jamaicans go to the polls for the local elections, the PNP will be victorious as "the people are already feeling the negative effects of this Government."