KINGSTON, Jamaica – Orange-clad supporters of Jamaica’s opposition party claimed victory in elections Thursday, a win that would bring the country’s first female prime minister back to office for a second time.
It marks a dramatic political comeback for the 66-year-old Portia Simpson Miller, a former prime minister beloved by supporters for her folksy, plain-spoken style.
“Based on the margins, it appears safe to say” that Simpson Miller’s party won, Election Director Orrette Fisher said, referring to preliminary results.
Jamaican newspapers and broadcasters called the election for her slightly left-leaning political faction. But Fisher said he is still waiting for all electoral officers to report so a breakdown of the 63 parliamentary seats was not immediately ready. He expected his office to release the official count on Saturday.
The campaign manager for Prime Minister Andrew Holness conceded defeat late Thursday.
Simpson Miller was Jamaica’s first female prime minister in 2006 but was tossed out of office a year later in a narrow election defeat.
Simpson Miller has been a stalwart of the People’s National Party since the 1970s. She paints herself as a champion of the poor and was first elected to Parliament in 1976 and became a Cabinet member in 1989. She became Jamaica’s first female prime minister in March 2006.
Partisans have long admired Simpson Miller as a Jamaican who was born in rural poverty and grew up in a Kingston ghetto, not far from the crumbling concrete jungle made famous by Bob Marley. Also referred to as “Sista P” and “Comrade Leader,” she is known for her folksy style.
During her brief tenure as prime minister, her support waned amid complaints she responded poorly to Hurricane Dean and was evasive about a scandal regarding a Dutch oil trading firm’s $460,000 payment to her political party leading up to 2007 elections.