THE Electoral Office of Jamaica (EOJ) says all is in place for today's nomination of candidates for the March 26 local government election. Both the People's National Party (PNP) and the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) are expected to nominate candidates for all 228 divisions in the 63 constituencies
for the local polls which are expected to see low voter turnout, coming just under three months after only 52 per cent of the electorate voted in the national election, which saw the then Opposition PNP returning to power in a landslide victory over the JLP.
Christin Senior, the EOJ's public education officer, told the Observer that returning officers were prepared and ready for today's nomination of candidates, which will see centres opened at 10:00 am and closing at 2:00 pm.
A small number of independents are expected to seek nomination for council seats, as is customary, to take on the 456 candidates being fielded by the established parties. The candidates are vying for seats in 13 parish councils and one municipal council — Portmore — which will also have a direct election for mayor. Mayors for the other councils are selected from the party with the majority of councillors.
Senior, who is expecting today's nomination to be a smooth one, said candidates must return their completed nomination form, signed by any six electors registered to vote in the electoral division, to the designated nomination centre. The completed form, along with a $3,000-nomination fee, are to be handed in to the returning officer. "The process is not expected to last more than 10 minutes as the forms will be accepted once the returning officers are satisfied that everything is in order," Senior told the Observer on Friday.
Although the fanfare involving busloads of party supporters normally associated with parliamentary elections is not expected to be a major feature for the nomination of councillors, Senior said some candidates are still accompanied by their supporters to the centres.
Jamaicans last elected their local parish representatives on December 5, 2007, three months after the JLP had won the general elections after more than 18 years in Opposition. The JLP took home 133 divisions to the 94 won by the PNP.
In the meantime, the EOJ said the November 30, 2011 voters' list that was used in the December 29, 2011 poll, will be used on March 26. The list has a total of 1,648,036 voters.
It is not clear just how much the local government poll is expected to cost the country despite an announcement last week that $900 million would have been budgeted. The figure however had not yet been finalised.