1997 Jamaican general election

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General elections were held in Jamaica on 18 December 1997.[1] The ruling People's National Party of Prime Minister P. J. Patterson won 50 of the 60 seats defeating the main opposition Jamaica Labour Party.


Prime Minister P. J. Patterson announced on the 27 November that the election would be held on the 18 December.[2] Patterson saw this as the right time to go the country as his People's National Party was ahead in the opinion polls, inflation had fallen substantially and the national football team had just qualified for the 1998 World Cup.[2] The previous election in 1993 had seen the People's National Party win 52 of the 60 seats, although in a quarter of the seats the winning margin was less than 1,000 votes.[3]

A record 197 candidates contested the election,[4][5] with a new political party, the National Democratic Movement, standing in most of the seats.[6] The National Democratic Movement had been founded in 1995 by a former Labour Party chairman, Bruce Golding,[6] after a dispute over the leadership of the Jamaica Labour Party.[7]


The election was seen as being mainly between the governing People's National Party and the main opposition Jamaica Labour Party, led by the former Prime Minister Edward Seaga.[8] The economy and violence were the major issues in the election, with the People's National Party maintaining a lead in the polls as the election neared.[3][8]

The election was mainly free of violence[9] as compared to previous elections,[6] although it began with an incident where rival motorcades from the main parties were fired on.[3] The election was the first in Jamaica where a team of international election monitors attended.[3] The monitors were from the Carter Center and included Jimmy Carter, Colin Powell and former heavyweight boxing world champion Evander Holyfield.[10] Just before the election the two main party leaders made a joint appeal for people to avoid marring the election with violence.[6] Election day itself saw one death and 4 injuries relating to the election, but the 1980 election had seen over 800 deaths.[6]


In winning the election the People's National Party became the first party to win 3 consecutive terms.[9] 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.[11] The National Democratic Movement failed to win any seats despite a pre-election prediction that they would manage to win a seat.[12]

Party Votes % Seats +/-
People's National Party 429,805 56.2 50 -2
Jamaica Labour Party 297,387 38.9 10 +2
National Democratic Movement 36,707 4.8 0 New
Independents 885 0.1 0 0
Invalid/blank votes 6,284
Total 771,068 100 60 0
Source: Nohlen


  1. ^ Nohlen, D (2005) Elections in the Americas: A data handbook, Volume I, p430 ISBN 978-0-19-928357-6
  2. ^ a b "Jamaican prime minister sets election date". BBC News Online. 1997-11-27. Retrieved 2009-07-18.
  3. ^ a b c d Rohter, Larry (1997-12-18). "In Jamaica, Violence Is the Issue". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-07-18.
  4. ^ "Electoral violence in Jamaica". BBC News Online. 1997-12-03. Retrieved 2009-07-18.
  5. ^ "Jamaican ruling party victorious by landslide". The Spokesman-Review. 1997-12-18. Retrieved 2009-07-19.
  6. ^ a b c d e "One dead in Jamaica election violence". BBC News Online. 1997-12-19. Retrieved 2009-07-18.
  7. ^ "Jamaica Re-Elects Patterson". The Ledger. 20 December 1997. Archived from the original on 24 January 2013. Retrieved 18 July 2009.
  8. ^ a b "Voting begins in Jamaican general election". BBC News Online. 1997-12-18. Retrieved 2009-07-18.
  9. ^ a b "Landslide for ruling party". The Guardian. 1997-12-20. p. 14.
  10. ^ Rohter, Larry (1997-12-19). "Top Hill Journal; At Polls in Jamaica, Kissing Cousin From America". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-07-19.
  11. ^ Adams, David (1997-12-20). "Jamaica returns Patterson". The Times. p. 14.
  12. ^ "PNP may secure third term by midnight, Thursday". Jamaica Gleaner. 17 December 1997. Archived from the original on 6 June 2012. Retrieved 19 July 2009.

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