Voters tired of IMF measures elect Labour Party in Jamaica

Voters reject IMF austerity measures and Jamaican Labour Party wins 33 of 63 seats in parliament

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Supporters of the opposition Jamaican Labour Party celebrate at the party's headquarters after they won the general election in Kingston, Jamaica, February 25, 2016.

Elections in Jamaica resulted in the opposition party’s victory on Thursday.

The Jamaican Labour party (JLP) - led by Andrew Holness - won 33 of the 63 seats, while Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller's party took 30 seats, according to the electoral council.  

Holness promised to cut taxes and create jobs after years of tough IMF-mandated austerity measures.

"Our mission is to move Jamaica from poverty to prosperity," said Holness, who is set be Jamaica’s next prime minister.

After the election results were announced supporters of the JPL headed to the party headquaters in Kingston. The sound of airhorns filled the JLP's headquarters, while the crowd waved the party’s green flags and partied to dancehall music, singing "Bye bye Portia, bye bye."

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

"We will grow the Jamaican economy. We will create jobs. We will give you an accountable and responsive government," Holness said, listing issues from water to housing and healthcare.

Holness promised to create 250,000 jobs on the island of 2.7 million people and cut income tax for many wage earners. However, critics say this will tear into the state's budget.

Jamaica’s next prime minister will not be alone in the parliament. Holness’s wife Juliet Holness, who was also a candidate for the JLP, also won a seat in the parliament.

Opinion polls before the election forecast victory for Prime Minister Simpson-Miller after she led the country away from debt towards economic growth and low inflation.

Simpson-Miller, Jamaica’s first female prime minister, conceded defeat to a crowd of somber voters.

Despite her People's National Party's socialist past, Miller embraced spending cuts, wage freezes and a harsh fiscal policy as part of a $1.27 billion IMF bailout.

Jamaica's Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller (C) talks to the media after casting her vote at a polling station during the general election in Kingston, Jamaica, February 25, 2016.

During her term in office inflation hit a 48-year low, while GDP grew 1.3 percent last year, according to the World Bank

However, unemployment remained high at around 13 percent, with youth unemployment at 38 percent.

While Simpson-Miller is credited with bringing stability, Holness' optimistic message was more popular in the end.

On his campaign trail Holness criticised the government's austerity policy but avoided harsh rhetoric against the IMF plan.

Holness briefly served as prime minister in 2011 after unrest due to a US attempt to extradite drug kingpin Christopher "Dudus" Coke forced his predecessor to resign.

TRTWorld, Reuters