Jamaican soldiers patrol streets after final vote count

Jamaican soldiers increase street partrol in order to provide security at electoral offices after final counting of votes in general election

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Soldiers of the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) stand guard outside the Electoral Office of Jamaica in Kingston, February 29, 2016.

Jamaican reservist soldiers reinforced security at electoral offices on Monday 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 concerning Jamaica's economy, with the winners promising low taxes and job after years of austerity under an IMF program. The ruling People's National Party was credited by many with restoring economic order.

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.

Andrew Holness (R), leader of the opposition Jamaican Labour Party, speaks to supporters at the party headquarters after they won the general election in Kingston, Jamaica February 25, 2016.

The JLP spokeswoman said on Monday 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 it had told the IMF of its reservations about the austerity program, 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 added that the party had communicated its concerns to the IMF. 

"We have always believed and do continue to believe that the primary surplus target is too high," she said.

The elections have been largely free from the political violence of past decades and the Organization of American States lauded the process as a good example for the rest of the Caribbean.

TRTWorld, Reuters