By: Harold G. Bailey
Monday, December 5, 2016.
KINGSTON, JAMAICA:- Portia Simpson – Miller, the first woman to head a major political party here, has announced she “will not seek re-election to the position, ” at the next annual conference of the opposition People’s National Party (PNP) slated for September of next year.
Simpson – Miller made the announcement at a contentious meeting of the national executive council of the party yesterday. Her decision came after the PNP suffered a second election loss to the ruling Jamaica Labour Party in local government elections on November 28.
The party had previously lost the parliamentary elections on February 25, going down by a one seat margin in the 63 member House of representatives.
In the November 28 elections, Simpson – Miller led the party to a 9 to 4 loss of the 14 local councils with one ending in a tie.
Simpson – Miller who twice became prime minister of Jamaica, has led the PNP, a center left party for the past decade. Regarded as the last of the charismatic political leaders after Alexander Bustamante ,– Jamaica’s first prime minister — and the late
Michael Manley, Simpson – Miller rose from humble beginnings to lead the PNP and become the first woman prime minister.
She began her political career as a constituency secretary, and first won political office as a local government councilor in 1974.She rose through the ranks of the PNP consistently winning a vice president slot before winning a bruising leadership race in 2006.
In government, she held several cabinet posts including those of Labour and Social Security and Sports. Despite her enormous popularity, Simpson- Miller never enjoyed total acceptance as leader of the PNP. mainly because it was felt that she was not from the intelligentsia class.
Calls for her to step down as party leader have been growing since the election loss in February and intensified after the loss of the local government polls on November 28.
Two former general secretaries , Peter Phillips and Peter Bunting have emerged as the leading candidates for the leadership of the party.