The fourteenth General Parliamentary Elections were held in Jamaica on 16 October 2002 for all 60 seats in the House of Representatives.
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.
The international community urged political leaders to control violence amongst their supporters in advance of the elections, as more than 50 people had been killed across the island since the electoral campaign started on 17 July 2002. Death rates during election periods have been steadily declining since 1980, when more than 800 people were killed in election-related violence. Nevertheless, the electoral authorities had to halt the campaign in some constituencies for fear of further violence.
Political Parties & Candidates
The elections were largely a contest between the governing People's National Party (PNP) and the opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP).
A total of 176 candidates contested the 2002 elections. the main political parties, the governing People's National Party (PNP) and the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) both fielded the full slate of 60 candidates. The New Jamaica Alliance, which includes the National Democratic Movement (NDM), the Republican Party and the Jamaica Alliance for National Unity, had the next largest slate, 31 candidates. Antonnette Haughton-Cardenas' United People's Party put up 10 candidates, while the Imperial Ethiopian World Federation Party (IEWFP), a rastafarian group, put up seven candidates. Eight Independents were also nominated.
In their electoral programmes, announced during the campaign, the two main parties, the ruling People's National Party (PNP) and the opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), emphasised their intention to reduce crime and invest more in education and social development. Crime was their main subject as Jamaica has one of the highest murder rates in the world, with an average of three people killed every day of the year. The PNP vowed to enhance seaborne security patrols, reduce drug trafficking and provide more vehicles to assist police, while the JLP pledged to fight crime by establishing an independent Police Services Commission and improving pay for police and soldiers.
On election day, more than 11,000 members of the Security Forces were deployed at nearly 7,300 polling stations across the island in an unprecedented peacekeeping operation. Former US President Jimmy Carter, who headed a team of international observers to monitor the elections, declared that the voting appeared to be orderly and that the election had been relatively free and fair.
The result was a victory for the People's National Party, which won 34 of the 60 seats. The party was returned for a record fourth consecutive term but with a much reduced majority, as it obtained 36 of the 60 seats at stake, as against 50 in the outgoing legislature. The opposition JLP won the remaining 24 seats.
P.J. Patterson, who was sworn in as Prime Minister on 23 October 2002 for his third term of office, became the first Jamaican leader to swear allegiance to the Constitution and people of Jamaica instead of the British monarch, as had been the norm since 1944.
The new Parliament was sworn in on 14 November 2002. Michael Peart was elected as the new Speaker of the House of Representatives, while Ms. Syring Marshall-Burnett was returned as President of the Senate.
Patterson stepped down on 26 February 2006, and was replaced by Portia Simpson-Miller, Jamaica's first female Prime Minister.
Voter turnout was 59.37%.