Jamaica Gleaner
Published: Monday | July 6, 2009
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Election watch - JLP seeks to take advantage of PNP strife

As disquiet continues to rattle the Opposition, the ruling Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) is gearing up to capitalise on the momentum from recent landslide by-election victories in local government polls scheduled for next year.

Derrick Smith, deputy leader of the JLP's Area Council One, told party members that the 70-year-old People's National Party (PNP) was beginning to crumble under its present leadership.

Smith, however, warned Labourites not to rest on their laurels but to consolidate their position, as elections could be called within the first four months of 2010.

Constitutionally, the next local government election becomes due in December 2010.

"We see that great party, Norman Manley's party, disintegrating under the present leadership that exists there at this time.

Internal squabbles

"We see the infighting, we hear them quarrelling with the leader, we hear them quarrelling with the general secretary and, more recently, quarrelling with the chairman. They are going to eventually quarrel with everybody," he said.

Smith continued: "I can't read into the prime minister's head, but as a politician for 30 years, I know how politicians think. At the state of the PNP, the demoralised state of the PNP could lead, might lead a party leader to look at some options and come to a decision that hopefully would not find us running from behind but prepared."

Ever since the Peter Phillips challenge for leadership of the PNP last year, the party has been tainted by episodes of disunity. There have also been allegations that a faction of young members of the PNP have become disenchanted with the leadership of President Portia Simpson Miller with claims that some members who previously supported her have tiptoed out of her camp.

Robert Pickersgill, chairman of the PNP, yesterday declined comment on the issue but said he would address, at a later date, the matter of the PNP's preparedness for local government elections.

Boundary revamp

Smith further told area council members to be prepared for the imminent boundary changes within the North St Andrew constituency. He said though the modifications would be marginal, they would affect some of the divisions in the constituency.

Plans are also afoot to increase the current number of constituencies from 60 to 63. The changes are expected to particularly affect the western parishes of St James and Westmoreland, as well as St Catherine in central Jamaica. The adjustments are being made to avoid a potential constitutional crisis if the current 60 seats were split down the middle between both major parties.

"If the party leader should anywhere in the very near future decide that he is going to exercise an option, which is his, we in Area Council One are well prepared and will not only defend what we have but improve on what we have," he added.

He was speaking yesterday following elections for the area council's new executive body at the Dunrobin Primary School, St Andrew.

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