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Jamaica General Election Results - 18 December 1997
Parliament Chamber, Jamaica

The thirteenth General Parliamentary Elections were held in Jamaica on 18 December 1997 for all 60 seats in the House of Representatives  following premature dissolution of this body on 26 November 1997.

Electoral System

The 60 members of the House of Representatives are elected in single-member constituencies by first-past-the-post voting. There is no fixed election date in effect in Jamaica at this time; hence, the choice of election date is the prerogative of the Prime Minister.

The Representation of the People Act permits the candidacy of voters above the age of 21. Any Commonwealth citizen residing in Jamaica can vote in the election if they are older than 18 years. To be included on the ballot, a nomination must include the signatures of at least ten eligible voters from the same constituency. The nomination form must then be submitted during a four-hour period on nomination day.

Background

The 1997 general elections were called on 26 November by Prime Minister P.J. Patterson (People’s National Party - PNP). The campaign was thus relatively short, lasting 22 days.

This election was the first in Jamaica to have a team of international election monitors present – a 58-member delegation from the Carter Center, a US-based nongovernmental, not-for-profit organisation led by former President Jimmy Carter.

Political Parties & Candidates

The main challenge to the ruling (since 1989) PNP once again came from the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) headed by former Premier Edward Seaga. A second threat came from the newly founded National Democratic Movement (NDM) led by Mr. Bruce Golding. These three parties altogether fielded 194 candidates for the 60 House seats. Four fringe parties and six independent individuals were also in the running.

Campaign

Pre-election opposition debate related to a great extent to the country’s ailing economy and rising murder rate.

As opposed to other recent campaigns, that of 1997 was generally free of violent incidents. On 17 December, the leaders of the three major parties signed a code of conduct designed to ensure a peaceful polling atmosphere. As a result, voting day - monitored by local and foreign observers, including a 60-member team from the US-based Carter Center - was largely calm but marked by a comparatively low turnout by Jamaican standards. Former US President Jimmy Carter characterise the polling "generally fair" but involving "some serious problems".

Results

Final results gave the socialist PNP a total of 50 seats, thus returning it to power for an unprecedented third consecutive term (neither it nor the JLP had had more than two since independence in 1962).

The opposition Jamaica Labour Party only had 2 more seats in Parliament after the election but their leader Edward Seaga held his seat for a ninth time in a row. The National Democratic Movement failed to win any seats despite a pre-election prediction that they would manage to win a seat

Patterson remained Prime Minister and his reshuffled Cabinet was sworn in on 3 January 1998.

Voter Turnout

Voter turnout was 65.22%.

ELECTORAL SYSTEM
System First-past-the-post
Elected Members 60 single-member constituencies
VOTER TURNOUT
Total Valid Votes 764,784
Invalid Votes 6,284
Total Votes Cast 771,068
Registered Voters 1,182,292
Voter Turnout 65.22%
   
CRITICAL DATES
Dissolution of House Wed, 26 Nov 1997
Nomination Day Tue, 2 Dec 1997
Polling Day Thu, 18 Dec 1997
POLITICAL LEADERS
  Photo Edward SEAGA
Jamaica Labour Party (JLP)
  Photo P.J. PATTERSON
People's National Party (PNP)
  Photo Bruce GOLDING
National Democratic Movement (NDM)
RELATED RESOURCES
Representation of the People Act Download report
Jamaica Constitution Act Download report
ELECTION REPORTS
Carter Centre Electoral Observation Mission Final Report Download report
SUMMARY RESULTS
  Party Code Votes Candidates Seats
Total % votes Change Number Change
  Jamaica Labour Party JLP 297,387 38.89% -0.54% 60 10 +2
  People's National Party Winner PNP 429,805 56.20% -3.78% 60 50 -2
  National Democratic Movement NDM 36,707 4.80% +4.80% 58 0 -
  Independent Candidates IND 885 0.12% -0.48% 16 0 -
  Total   765,422 100% - 194 60 -
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Key
JLP = Jamaica Labour Party; PNP = People's National Party; IND = Inpendent candidate; * Incumbent; ** Political Leader
Sources
Electoral Commission of Jamaica
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