Ending months of speculation, Jamaica Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller has called general elections for the end of this month.
Simpson Miller made the long-awaited announcement Sunday night during a rally for her People’s National Party in Kingston.
“Time come to sound the trumpet,” Simpson Miller said, speaking to orange-clad, flag-waving party supporters. “General elections will be held on the 25th day of February 2016.”
The ruling party will face the Jamaica Labor Party, led by former Prime Minister Andrew Holness. Holness was in power for a little more than two months before losing the 2011 elections to Simpson Miller.
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Affectionately referred to as Sister P, Simpson Miller became the country’s first female prime minister in March 2006 and served a year and a half before her party lost to the JLP.
Speaking about the opposition , Simpson Miller told the rowdy crowd, “They been calling for elections for a long time. They getting it now and they gone get a whipping at the polls.”
Elections aren’t constitutionally due until December, but Simpson Miller said now is the time “to put some people out of their misery.” Political observers, however, say Simpson Miller, who is seeking a second consecutive term in office, and the PNP, will not have an easy time at winning the polls.
“It’s going to be very competitive,” said Cliff Hughes, a journalist and radio talk show host. “The PNP, according to the last poll results, is marginally ahead.”
In addition, Hughes, noted the ruling party traditionally has been a better campaigner, viewed as better organized and is flushed with cash. But the big hurdle the PNP and its candidates will have to overcome is that life has been extremely tough on the country’s 2.7 million people.
Jamaica is seeing its highest homicide rate in five years and is continuing to dig itself out of a debt crisis with the help of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. Despite positive economic trends, they have not trickled down to many of Jamaicans.
“People will have to make a decision between what they are feeling in their pockets and what is being said nationally,” Hughes said.
Meanwhile, despite promises by the government to bring down the crime rate, the Jamaica Constabulary Force has said that the homicide rate went up roughly 20 percent in 2015. The country had at least 1,192 killings in 2015. There were 1,005 killings in 2014.