Wed, Sep 05, 2007 - Page 7 News List

Opposition party secures narrow victory in Jamaica


The main opposition Jamaican Labour Party (JLP) won a close election ousting the Caribbean nation's first woman prime minister, according to preliminary results.

But Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller refused to concede defeat after officials said the JLP won 31 out of 60 parliament seats in Monday's election, against 29 for her People's National Party (PNP).

Sporadic violence marred the vote which also went ahead amid a tropical storm warning as Hurricane Felix passed by.

Simpson Miller said the PNP would call for recounts and that at least three PNP candidates would file legal challenges accusing their rivals of being ineligible because they hold dual US-Jamaican citizenship.

"We are conceding no victory to the Jamaica Labour Party," said Simpson Miller, who became prime minister in March 2006, succeeding P.J. Patterson who stepped down after 14 years in power.

The apparent victory of the JLP led by Bruce Golding would end a streak of five straight defeats for the party.

Shots were reportedly fired at one polling station adding to tensions after seven people were killed in suspected politically motivated attacks on Friday.

The shooting at a polling station in the St Andrews constituency of the capital Kingston area forced a two-hour suspension of voting in the district.

No casualties were reported and voting resumed after authorities deployed troops to the area, officials said.

A police patrol also came under fire in the same district.

Voters stood in long lines at polling stations and Jamaica's director of elections, Danville Walker, said the electoral system was overwhelmed by the large turnout.

Delays were aggravated by flawed registration lists at some polling stations that did not include all voters' names and a lack of electricity on some parts of the island hit hard by Hurricane Dean last month.

One voter, Lennox Garfield Rodney, expressed frustration with the long wait.

"The voting system is too slow," Rodney said. "They can't have working people standing up and waiting so long in the sun."

Hurricane Felix, the second hurricane in two weeks, dumped rain on the island in the late afternoon. The storm bypassed the country but still triggered a tropical storm warning.

Political tensions had mounted since the planned vote Aug. 27 was postponed after Hurricane Dean ravaged the island on Aug. 18-19, and there had been a surge of politically motivated shootings and fights.

Simpson Miller's PNP alleged the shooting at the Kingston polling station was carried out by Labour party opponents.

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