People’s National Party (PNP) General Secretary Paul Burke has pointed to the many Jamaicans who decided to vote late in the day as a key factor in the party’s defeat on February 25th.
According to Burke, these uncommitted voters were seduced by the Jamaica Labour Party’s (JLP) offer of no income tax payable on salaries up to $1.5 million.
Following the PNP’s 33-30 defeat at the polls, Burke said the JLP’s income tax message resonated with young professionals and individuals who are at that salary scale or below.
“The most seductive message of the campaign was the JLP’s $1.5 million no income tax payment offer. That resonated with a number of persons who are either at the $1.5 million threshold or below. That, I believe, was the most important factor leading to the party’s loss in the election,” Burke told media reporters.
He said despite the JLP’s tax offer, the PNP was confident of victory 24 hours before the polls opened, although they had revised their expected seat count to 34.
But the PNP failed to hold on to four of the seats it was banking on, leaving the JLP to form the next government.
Burke accepted that issues like the dead babies, the British prime minister’s prison offer, the chikungunya outbreak two years ago, the negative campaign on Holness’ house, and the absence of the PNP from the political debate also impacted the PNP’s performance in the polls.
“I am sure they all had a combined effect in some way, but in some of our polls, the internal constituency difficulties did not factor much. And in all of those constituencies, the party triumphed,” Burke said as he downplayed the impact of the battles to represent the party in a number of seats.
University lecturer Dr Christopher Charles, who ventured into electoral forecasting in the lead-up to the election, had predicted a PNP victory, but agreed that the JLP’s tax plan was a big hit with voters.
“The tax offer resonated. Going negative impacted, but I can’t say how much. People did not care about it, so the PNP spent a lot to time going negative against something the people didn’t care about,” said Charles as he pointed to the PNP’s campaign focus on the house of the JLP leader.
According to Charles, the campaign target on Holness’ house did not benefit the PNP:
“While the JLP continued with its message and its tax promise was just a hit”.