A seat-by-seat analysis by The Gleaner political team shows the JLP with the slimmest of leads and the PNP still in with a chance.
With both parties sharing a little more than 60 per cent of the 1.6 million electorate, there remains a sizeable number of persons who have not yet indicated how they will vote, and who could determine the outcome of the election come Thursday night.
Even more crucial are 20 seats, which The Gleaner expects will determine the election.
Some of the 20 are traditional battleground seats while others are now held by either of the two parties, but could change hands come Thursday.
Since June, The Gleaner has commissioned pollster Bill Johnson to conduct five national polls and six constituency polls, with the findings showing a winner by what is termed, in horse racing parlance, “a head bob”.
In June, the PNP led the JLP by a runaway 10 points at 35 per cent to 25 per cent popular support.
With the announced resignation of then prime minister, Bruce Golding, the JLP climbed to 31 per cent while the PNP moved to 37 per cent.
With the JLP trying to decide on a leader, its support slipped to 29 per cent in November, while the PNP declined to 32 per cent.
When the governing party settled on Andrew Holness to replace Golding, its support moved up to 36 per cent in early December, while the PNP remained at 32 per cent, giving the JLP its first lead in the polls in months.
But two weeks ago, when Johnson returned to the streets, he found the PNP leading the JLP with 38 per cent support to 36 per cent.
Against that background and with The Gleaner’s political team active on the road during the campaign, an analysis of the seat-by-seat possibilities has suggested that 43 seats can be declared today for the two parties, with 23 going to the JLP and 20 going to the PNP.
But with 20 seats in the column labelled marginal, it is the votes in the box come Thursday which are going to be crucial.
Using polling trends, anecdotes, and voting history, The Gleaner is projecting that the JLP should win 34 of the 63 seats in the House of Representatives. The PNP, on the other hand, looks set to win 29 of the seats.
The JLP, which was elected to power with a four-seat majority in 2007, will have to pull out all the stops in at least 11 constituencies if it is to follow up on that win where Bruce Golding led it to victory in 32 seats while the Portia Simpson Miller-led PNP captured 28 seats.
A lot has changed since that election. The number of constituencies has been increased to 63; Golding has left the political arena; and more than 300,000 Jamaicans have been added to the voters’ list.
Based on Gleaner soundings, it appears the JLP will comfortably win two of the three new seats – South Central St Catherine, and Central St James. It is also likely that the third new seat – East Central St Catherine – will go to the JLP.
For the PNP to win the election, it must hold on to the 28 seats it won in 2007 and pick up at least four other seats. At present, the PNP is fighting to retain at least four of the seats it won in 2007. Those seats are East Portland, Central Manchester, East Hanover, and South St James.
Besides playing defence in those constituencies, the PNP has targeted some key seats held by the JLP as part of its victory strategy. These seats include South East St Mary, East Rural St Andrew, Eastern St Andrew, North West St Ann, South East St Elizabeth, and West Central St James.
If the JLP loses the election, which appears unlikely at this stage, it will be the first time in the history of the country that a political party is rejected after one term in power. But JLP insiders say the aim is to win a minimum of 38 seats and a high of 40.
“The Jamaica Labour Party intends to retain its 32 seats. It intends to quite easily gain the three new seats, take out Hanover as a parish, and to get an additional seat at least in the parish of Kingston, while winning East Portland,” a senior JLP insider said.
East Portland, once considered a strong PNP seat, is now a battleground, with the JLP’s Patrick Lee against the PNP’s Dr Lynval Bloomfield.
Dr Donald Rhodd won the seat for the PNP in 2002 by 2,301 votes, but by 2007, his victory margin fell to 795.
The JLP is also promising a surprise in Central Kingston, a bedrock PNP seat which Ronald Thwaites won by 1,465 votes in 2007. His opponent in the election is the JLP’s Rosalee Hamilton.
Meanwhile, Portia Simpson Miller, president of the PNP, does not appear to be worried about the way the electors are likely to vote. “A change is blowing across Jamaica. I can feel that cool breeze of victory blowing,” she said during a meeting in Naggo Head, St Catherine, last week.