KINGSTON – Jamaicans cast their ballots Thursday in what was expected to be a close contest between the ruling People’s National Party and the main opposition Jamaica Labor Party for control of the island’s 63-seat parliament.
Voting began at 7 a.m. and the polls were set to remain open for 10 hours.
Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller’s PNP and the JLP, led by former premier Andrew Holness, are competing for every seat, while smaller parties have put forward 26 candidates in all.
The director of elections, Orrette Fisher, said all the elements were in place for an orderly process.
“We are aiming to have the results out by 7 p.m., maybe not every single ballot will be counted, but by that time we should be able to decide who will form the next government,” Fisher said.
A poll from the RJR Communications Group suggested that voter turnout was likely to be 58 percent, up from 53 percent in the 2011 general election.
Jamaica, a country of 2.7 million people, has 1.8 million registered voters, according to data from the Electoral Commission.
Both of the major political parties expressed confidence.
“We are very confident and it has nothing to do with the two national pollsters predicting a PNP victory, we have done our homework, we have done our groundwork, we will get our voters out and we expect a positive result, a positive outcome,” ruling party General Secretary Paul Burke said.
His JLP counterpart was similarly upbeat.
“Based on the feeling on the ground and the work that we have done and the campaign that we conducted, I believe we have connected with Jamaicans and that the voters will return the Jamaica Labor Party as the government of Jamaica,” Andrew Wheatley said.
In the 2011 elections, the PNP took 41 of the 63 seats in parliament, with the rest going to the JLP.