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Jamaica News - Real Estate - Politics (April 14, 2005)
Golding gets expected easy win in West Kingston 
JAMAICA Labour Party (JLP) leader Bruce Golding yesterday swamped the People's National Party's (PNP) Joseph "Bunny" Witter by more than 7,000 votes in the West Kingston by-election, and immediately claimed the right to speak as leader of the Opposition in the budget debate next week.

The JLP leader polled 8,225 votes to Witter's 1,079. The National Democratic Movement's (NDM) Michael Elliott scored 10 votes and Ras Astor Black of the Jamaica Alliance Movement scored 8 votes.

Golding, who had walked out of the JLP in 1995 to form the NDM, lost his Central St Catherine seat in the 1997 general election. His return to the JLP on the eve of the 2002 general election was credited with the good showing of the JLP in that poll when the party won 26 of the 60 seats. He was appointed as an Opposition senator that same year, but resigned shortly after Seaga gave up the West Kingston seat in January and was chosen to replace Seaga.

Golding told a press briefing after the results were announced that the Opposition's plans are that Audley Shaw, its spokesman on finance, will open the Opposition's reply to the Minister of Finance on Tuesday; Opposition Leader Dr Ken Baugh will speak on Wednesday; "and I expect to make my own presentation as Leader of the Opposition on Thursday".

There had been some speculation as to whether Golding would have been able to speak in the 2005/2006 Budget Debate, which will be opened by Minister of Finance and Planning Dr Omar Davies, at Gordon House this afternoon.

Golding, asked how soon he expected to be sworn in, stated "I expect to be sworn in order for me to make that presentation on Thursday".

Meanwhile, Witter stated last night that he was "feeling good" despite his loss.  "To me, the only surprise would be if I had won," he said.

Golding was elated and paid homage to his campaign team led by Mayor of Kingston Desmond McKenzie, as he addressed hundreds of supporters at the community centre in Tivoli Gardens after the victory.

A large turnout of labourites, including MPs and their followers from across the country, flocked the Tivoli Gardens square throughout the day to support their leader in what was always expected to be an easy win in the seat held for almost 43 years by Edward Seaga, who resigned in January as party leader and MP.

"We don't have the final figures, it appears that the percentage was perhaps close to 60 per cent which is good for by-elections. I think that you will find that it is perhaps the highest turnout in any by-election in this country in the last 25 years," Golding told reporters later.

He added that what was also significant was that the JLP had improved its percentage of the votes polled in terms of the percentage margin between his party and the PNP.

"The results not only demonstrate the almost unshakable, unmovable support for the party in West Kingston, but I also take it as a strong, convincing and powerful mandate for me to go forward," Golding said.

Yesterday's turnout was close to 60 per cent, compared to the 81 per cent who voted in 2002 when Seaga polled 11,251, in trouncing Witter who received 2,099. But it was a good by-election result considering that a number of constituencies registered between 45 per cent and 55 per cent turnout in the October 2002 general election.

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