It’s Spencer vs Jess

SANTA CRUZ, St Elizabeth — Delegates of the Opposition People’s National Party (PNP) here will on Sunday decide which of two aspirants will get the nod to represent the party in St Elizabeth North Eastern for the next parliamentary election.

Businessman Kern Spencer and lawyer Zuleika Jess are vying to be the party’s representative. There are 1,274 delegates eligible to vote during the internal election set for the St Elizabeth Technical High School in Santa Cruz between 9:00 am and 3:00 pm.

Spencer, who is also chairman of the party’s Region Five, which comprises Manchester and St Elizabeth, told the Jamaica Observer on Thursday that there has been tension and threats issued because some supporters have not been included on the delegates’ list, and this could result in a “domino effect” leading into the general election.

“I am very confident, but as the leader of the region I have a bigger problem and concern which I am trying with in the constituency now… There are 400 delegates whose names are not appearing on the list and I am getting word that they are organising themselves to take legal action, which I am trying to defuse. Also, I am hearing that they are organising a series of demonstrations, because they are saying if they are not allowed to vote in an internal election, there is no way they and their families will vote in a general election,” he said.

Spencer, who had won the seat for the PNP in 2007, was forced to walk away from competitive politics in the build-up to the 2011 General Election following corruption charges — which were eventually dismissed.

During an interview on Nationwide 90 FM PNP General Secretary Dayton Campbell on Thursday explained why groups were not added to the delegates’ list.

“… We have continued registration; you can always register a group. Groups take seven months to become financial… The groups were delivered to the party [in] December 2022, but they became financial at the beginning of June. They are not on the list because they were not financial at the time that the date for the election was set and at the time that the draft list was sent out,” Campbell said, adding that the election was first set for early May.

Jess expressed confidence last week heading into today’s election.

“…We are even more confident that the delegates will reflect the views of the general people of North East St Elizabeth and will vote accordingly to ensure that the best candidate gets the nod to represent the seat,” she said.

Long considered a stronghold of the PNP, St Elizabeth North Eastern was lost to the ruling Jamaica Labour Party’s (JLP) Delroy Slowley in 2020 — among the shock results of that election — which the JLP won by a landslide.

Jess lost to the ruling JLP giant Mike Henry in the 2020 parliamentary election in Clarendon Central.

Two sitting PNP councillors, Everton Fisher and Audie Myers, have thrown their weight behind Jess. The other sitting councillor aligned to the PNP in the constituency, Donovan Pagon, who is also the party’s chairman for St Elizabeth North Eastern, had previously said he would not comment on the matter.

An initial poll commissioned for St Elizabeth North Eastern showed Spencer with 32 per cent, Jess with 24 per cent, and Raymond Pryce with 22 per cent.

The inclusion of Pryce in the first poll had raised concerns among some people within the party.

Another poll, which was not released officially, indicates that Jess could beat the incumbent Slowley in an election, while he and Spencer could go neck and neck.