Bogota, Sept. 3, 2020 (dpa/Naija247news) Jamaicans started voting on Thursday in legislative elections overshadowed by the coronavirus pandemic, which were expected to give Prime Minister Andrew Holness another five-year term in office.
About 1.9 million people are eligible to elect 63 members of the House of Representatives on the largest island in the English-speaking Caribbean.
Campaign rallies and door-to-door campaigning had been restricted after the number of new coronavirus cases surged.
Jamaica has recorded more than 2,600 infections and over 20 deaths from Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus.
Holness is nevertheless seen as having done a relatively good job in handling the pandemic, including by quickly closing the borders in March.
The government has received praise for its economic policies, with unemployment falling to the historic low of 7 per cent in October 2019, according to World Bank figures.
“Poverty is at its lowest in 10 years … we have … had no new taxes,” Holness said during an election debate.
His challenger Peter Phillips’ People’s National Party (PNP) argues that much of the economic groundwork was done when it was in power before Holness’ Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) won the elections in 2016.
But the pandemic left hundreds of thousands of Jamaicans without jobs or on low incomes, leading to the government reopening the borders of the tourism-reliant island in mid-June.
The subsequent spike in infections gave Phillips an opportunity to criticize the government’s health policies, and Holness for calling elections during the pandemic.
The opposition also accuses the government of corruption and points to high levels of crime on the island, which has a homicide rate three times higher than average in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Opinion polls have nevertheless indicated that Jamaicans trust Holness more than Phillips, and would give him another term in office.
Election arrangements include the deployment of 7,400 sanitation officers, fever checks, face masks and social distancing at polling stations.