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Jamaican opposition leader resigns after election defeat

Jamaican opposition leader Peter Phillips on Friday announced his resignation, after preliminary results gave Prime Minister Andrew Holness a landslide victory in legislative elections, according to daily newspaper The Gleaner.

Phillips said he had written to the Chairman of his People’s National Party (PNP) and asked for arrangements to be made to select a new head, according to the daily.

Holness’ Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) scored 49 of the 63 parliamentary seats up for grabs in Thursday’s elections, with the preliminary count almost complete, the electoral commission said late on Thursday.

The PNP lagged far behind, with only 14 seats.

The result would give Holness another five-year term in office.

The Gleaner called it “a shocking defeat for the PNP, which saw a surprising upset for several of its top stalwarts and popular names.”

About 1.9 million people were eligible to elect members of the House of Representatives on the largest island in the English-speaking Caribbean.

Voter turnout was given as 37 percent, down from 48.4 percent in 2016.

Campaign rallies and door-to-door campaigning had been restricted after the number of new coronavirus cases surged.

Jamaica has recorded nearly 3,000 infections and almost 30 deaths from COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.

The incumbent was nevertheless seen as having done a relatively good job in handling the pandemic, including by quickly closing the borders in March.

The government has also received praise for its economic policies, with unemployment falling to a historic low of 7 percent in October 2019, according to World Bank figures.

But the pandemic left hundreds of thousands of Jamaicans without jobs or with low incomes, leading to the government reopening the tourism-reliant island’s borders in mid-June.

The opposition criticized Holness for calling elections during the pandemic, accused the government of corruption, and pointed to high crime levels.

The elections took place under safety measures, including temperature checks and the wearing of face masks.

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