KINGSTON, Jamaica, (Reu-ters) – Jamaica’s ruling party will choose its next leader on Nov. 19 and the winner will become the Caribbean island’s next prime minister, a senior government official said yesterday.
More than 5,000 delegates from the ruling Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) will vote for a successor to Prime Minister Bruce Golding at the party’s general council meeting on that date, JLP General Secretary Aundre Franklin told a news conference.
“We have just over 5,000 delegates now, but we will be going over the list and a final count will be known by October 21,” Franklin said.
Golding, 63, announced unexpectedly last weekend that he would step down as party leader and prime minister after four years in the job, citing the pressures of office as his main reason. He has not commented publicly but is scheduled to address the nation in a broadcast on Sunday evening.
Franklin said the deadline for nominations would be Oct. 20. Already three names have been put forward as likely to figure in a run-off for the vacancy — Education Minister Andrew Holness, Finance Minister Audley Shaw and Industry and Commerce Minister Christopher Tufton.
The opposition People’s National Party welcomed Golding’s decision to quit and has called for a general election to be held as soon as possible. A general election is constitutionally due by December 2012.
The new prime minister will face the challenge of trying to jump-start a struggling economy in one of the world’s most indebted nations. Tourism-reliant Jamaica has been hit hard by the global economic crisis and turned to the International Monetary Fund in 2010 for a $1.27 billion loan agreement as it struggled to recover.
Franklin said that all candidates would have to conform to party rules to conduct a clean period of campaigning.
“The party’s rules and regulations will be brought to bear on anyone or any group of individuals who so decide to bring the party into dispute,” Franklin said.