December elections for Jamaica
Kingston - Prime Minister
Andrew Holness announced on Sunday that general elections will be held in this
island nation on December 29, a year ahead of a constitutional deadline and in
the thick of the crucial winter tourist season.
Elections were due
by December 2012, but Holness said the Caribbean island's international
partners and lenders needed to know before the end of the year if voters will
give him a mandate to govern Jamaica for the next five years.
people are confident in this government," Holness asserted on Sunday night
at a packed rally in the central town of Mandeville.
Holness gave credit to his ruling Jamaica Labor Party for providing political
leadership since the 2007 elections, laying a path for reforms and improving
the debt-swamped island's economic performance after 18 years of opposition
He was sworn in as
prime minister on October 23 and quickly said he would root out corruption,
reduce debt and bureaucracy, attract foreign investment and fight poverty. He's
also called for an end to links between politicians and slum bosses in
Bruce Golding, stepped down in October after four years as prime minister when
his popularity sagged due to his nine-month opposition to a US extradition
request for a notorious gang leader. Labor Party lawmakers unanimously chose
Holness as their party's leader, and he automatically became prime minister.
"ready for a positive future," Holness told tens of thousands of
partisans wearing the governing party's trademark green as he called the vote.
The winner of the
December 29 election will face deep economic problems on this island of 2.8
million people. Jamaica's debt stands at roughly $18.6 billion.
has been on a meager upswing, but roughly 60% of government spending still goes
to debt and another 30% pays wages. That leaves just 10 percent for education,
health, security and other parts of the budget.
The Sunday night
gathering bristled with a festive feel as cheering, horn-honking caravans of
Labor supporters celebrated in the streets, waving banners and dancing to
reggae tunes pounding out of big speakers.
unclear is how most voters in this heavily Christian nation will react to
general elections coming so close to Christmas Day.
Holness' move comes
as he navigates his government's first major controversy, with anti-corruption
agencies investigating a troubled government program and agency for alleged
mismanagement of a stalled $400 million roadwork programme financed by China.
In recent days, the
CEO of the National Works Agency and Holness' transport and works minister have
stepped down in the wake of the scandal.
Holness has assumed
responsibility for the troubled project and said no new work orders will be
issued for the program until an independent review is finished.
In a televised
speech on Saturday night, Holness vowed that his government will launch a
forensic audit of the infrastructure program and publicly release its findings.
He said he was aware the controversy "can create public alarm and
Miller, chief of the opposition People's National Party, said Holness' pledge
for a forensic audit is disingenuous and "too little too late."
Her party has
unveiled its candidates for all 63 constituencies and says it is ready for