The by-election is to replace former member of parliament and Agriculture Minister Roger Clarke who died on August 28.
At a selection contest held at the The Manning’s School yesterday, Vaz polled 329 votes to beat attorney-at-law Michael Erskine, who secured 245 votes. One ballot was spoiled.
The Party’s election director for that selection Region 5 Chairman Wensworth Skeffery, will next Monday present the results of the elections to the Party Executive for ratification.
Following announcement of the win, Vaz thanked his party for adhering to the democratic process. “First of all, I would like to congratulate the party for allowing due process to take its course. The delegates have spoken,” he declared.
The businessman, who noted that his first order of business would be to unite party supporters in the constituency, commended Erskine for putting up a strong challenge.
“I want to congratulate Michael Erskine for a good fight... we enjoyed the competition. Michael is my friend and I know that after today he will support me and we will move forward in unity," he said.
Vaz sounded a warning to financial consultant Faye Jacobs, the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party's candidate, that the PNP will retain the seat., which has been dominated by the ruling PNP over the years.
PNP Chairman Robert Pickersgill, who led a strong delegation of party officials to the selection centre yesterday, congratulated the delegates for a well run contest: "I would like to congratulate the comrades for a peaceful and well-run contest. I congratulate the two candidates and their two teams. It only goes to show that the People's National Party tradition for the respect of democracy and free and fair elections is demonstrated to the public once again,” Pickersgill told the comrades.
The party executive had previously endorsed Erskine following a preliminary selection process among the declared candidates. A release from the PNP said that the executive committee received and accepted a report from the party’s general secretary regarding his selection. It said, further, that the party's executive was advised that among the measures used to arrive at the selection, was a scientific poll commissioned by the party by a “noted” local pollster “of good repute and excellent track record”.
It was further noted that those results were consistent with a series of consultations among members of the party's organisation in Central Westmoreland.
But former PNP vice-president Dr Karl Blythe, who had previously represented the constituency, but showed no interest in the selection, had a change of heart, and in a late effort to insert himself in the process, cried foul and took the party to court claiming that the party was in breach of the party’s constitution and sought to bar it from moving forward with plans to select Erskine.
He later withdrew his challenge of the process and threw his support behind Vaz.
Central Westmoreland, considered a "safe PNP seat", encompasses Westmoreland's parish capital, Savanna-la-Mar, the sugar cane belt of Frome, Whithorn, Smithfield, Cornwall Mountain, Haddo, Petersfield, and several other small districts.
Clarke won it in the 2007 general election when he beat the JLP's Russell Hammond by over 1,800 votes. He increased his margin of victory to 3,042 votes at the December 2011 polls.
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