Jamaica's First Female PM Elected Again

After four years off, Portia Simpson-Miller is headed back to her old office.

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Ratiba Hamzaoui/AFP/Getty Images

In a landslide victory, Jamaica's first female prime minister yesterday reclaimed her office only four years after losing an election to the Jamaica Labour Party.

Defying polls that predicted a close race, Portia Simpson-Miller's People's National Party surprised pundits after Thursday's election and walked away with 41 seats in the House of Representatives to the JLP's 22, taking 53.3 percent of the vote.

It is the surest sign that "People Power," the PNP's campaign theme, had won the day and shown the JLP that it had not been forgiven for embarrassing Jamaica in the eyes of the world by protecting drug trafficker and accused murderer Christopher "Dudus" Coke.

"I am humbled as I stand before you, and I wish to thank the Jamaican people for their love, for their support and for giving the PNP and their leader her own mandate," she told a huge crowd outside her party headquarters after Andrew Holness, the prime minister for two months, conceded.

She was as conciliatory as she was triumphant, telling her supporters to greet JLP members with love. "This leader with her team will be working with all Jamaicans as one family as we shape the future together," she promised.

Party Chairman Bobby Pickersgill was enthusiastic in his praise for Sister P., as she is affectionately known. "This is the greatest woman that Jamaica has produced," said Pickersgill. "She is our Jamaican queen."

The JLP's Campaign Chairman Karl Samuda was stoic in his response to the overwhelming defeat. "The Jamaican people instinctively know what is best at a given moment," said Samuda. Two JLP Cabinet ministers and four junior ministers lost their seats.

Outgoing Prime Minister Andrew Holness, who was put in the job when Bruce Golding resigned rather than face the electorate, was more assertive. "We see it as an opportunity to rebuild, and our campaign for the next government starts tomorrow," he told the media.

The magnitude of Sister P.'s victory surprised most people. As late as election day, analysts and pollsters were predicting a very close race. Now many argue that the low voter turnout (52.6 percent versus 61.5 percent in 2007) gave the PNP the edge because it has a larger base.

The election campaigns were spirited. The JLP outspent the PNP by what looked like a 3-to-1 margin. But its emphasis on negative campaigning got pushed back because many Jamaicans saw at least one of its ads as disrespectful to Sister P. Now no one is asking who is having the last laugh.