By David McFadden
KINGSTON, Jamaica — Jamaica’s first female prime minister has officially led her party to a landslide victory in general elections with final results announced Tuesday giving it a two-to-one margin in Parliament.
Portia Simpson Miller’s People’s National Party captured 42 seats in the country’s 63-seat Parliament and the incumbent Jamaica Labor Party just 21, according to official results from Thursday’s elections.
The count includes one more seat for the 66-year-old Simpson Miller’s party than was first announced in the preliminary results.
After a days-long recount, outgoing Commerce Minister Christopher Tufton was found to have lost his seat by just 13 votes, according to Elections Director Orrette Fisher. Officials had initially credited Tufton with a narrow win.
Walloped by the lopsided loss, dazed Jamaica Labor Party leaders are trying to figure out what went wrong. They have been in control of the government since 2007, when they ended a nearly two-decade run of electoral wins by the People’s National Party.
“We’re going to consult and assess the situation in each and every constituency to determine what was the cause of the defeat,” Labor campaign director Karl Samuda said Tuesday.
Samuda has said the party was partly hobbled by lingering questions about ex-Prime Minister Bruce Golding’s handling of a 2009 U.S. extradition request for Jamaican drug kingpin Christopher “Dudus” Coke, the island’s most notorious extralegal figure.
Many Jamaicans were upset that Golding authorized a U.S. firm to lobby Washington to drop the request, only reversing course after nine months. He ordered an offensive to find Coke in his West Kingston stronghold that led to one of the bloodiest episodes in Jamaica’s recent history.
Andrew Holness, who became prime minister two months ago after Golding abruptly stepped down amid anemic public backing, became the new face of the party. The 39-year-old did little to inspire Labor tribalists or swing voters, but there has been no public hand-wringing by party officials over Holness’ leadership after the election loss.
On Tuesday, Samuda said that Labor will now focus on being an effective opposition.
Political analysts say the winning side has no reason to gloat, since only a little more than half of the eligible 1.6 million voters cast ballots.
“Based on the low voter turnout the new government has to get civil society engaged to get more people involved in the process,” said Trevor Munroe, a lecturer in government at the University of the West Indies.
Last week’s electoral win marks a remarkable political comeback for Simpson Miller, who was Jamaica’s first female leader during her year-and-a-half-long first stint in office that ended in 2007. She will be sworn in on Thursday.