After last Thursday’s parliamentary elections in Jamaica produced decisive but unofficial results, the official tally released yesterday confirmed victory for Portia Simpson-Miller of the opposition People’s National Party (PNP). She unseated Prime Minister Andrew Holness and his Jamaica Labour Party (JLP). In Jamaica’s 63-seat unicameral congress, PNP claimed victory by a two-to-one margin—winning 42 seats to JLP’s 21.
Simpson-Miller previously served as prime minister (March 2006 to September 2007), but handed over power to JLP in the 2007 parliamentary election, ending almost 20 years of consecutive PNP rule. When JLP gained power, it was led by MP Bruce Golding, who held the premiership until he left the post in October 2011 due to unpopularity and a desire for JLP to bring in new leadership before the December 2011 election.
Golding’s low poll rankings stemmed primarily from his decision to agree to extradite drug-lord Christopher “Dudus” Coke to the United States, after a public nine-month campaign appealing to the U.S. to drop the request.
When Golding left office, his education minister, Andrew Holness, became Jamaica’s ninth prime minister. He will now leave the post after only two months on the job—the shortest tenure ever in Jamaica.
On Thursday night, Simpson-Miller said to supporters, “We will be working to move this country forward to achieve growth and development and for job creation. As we move to balance the books, we will be moving to balance people’s lives.” Simpson-Miller will assume the premiership tomorrow afternoon.
In October, Andrew Holness became the ninth prime minister of Jamaica, but also the youngest in its history and the first prime minister born post-1962 independence. Holness, a three-term member of parliament, was formerly the minister of education and the leader of government business in Jamaica’s House of Representatives.
Speculation about a change in leadership first emerged in late September when reports surfaced that Prime Minister Bruce Golding, Holness’ predecessor, had tendered his resignation. Many Jamaicans have offered their individual speculations for the move; while Golding hasn’t addressed any of these directly, he did say in an address to the nation that the challenges of the last four years had taken a toll on him.
The task of prime minister is a daunting one, especially in a nation like Jamaica—a developing country in a global recession. The premier must combat the unacceptable level of crime and violence, the increase in poverty, a high debt-to-GDP ratio, food insecurity, human rights issues—including extrajudicial matters and summary killings—and the state of the education system.
All of these issues are important, but education is a key concern. How will Prime Minister Holness strengthen the education system? Indeed, it is a cornerstone of Jamaica’s national development plan, known as Vision 2030.