Jamaican PM romps home in general election

Jamaica's centre-left People's National Party, led by the Prime Minister, PJ Patterson, won an unprecedented third straight term, routing the conservative Jamaica Labour Party in Thursday's general election.

After his third straight defeat, the JLP leader, Edward Seaga, who was prime minister throughout the Eighties, hinted that his career might be over.

Five people were killed in election-day violence, though that was probably the lowest toll in any election during the past 50 years. Relieved that heavily armed gunmen in the so-called "garrison communities", or fiercely loyal neighbourhood fiefdoms, had generally stayed quiet, Mr Patterson said his victory was " a call for a unifying force ... love and togetherness." Holding up three fingers to signify three terms - the late Michael Manley led the first term from 1989 until he handed over to Mr Patterson in 1992 - the Prime Minister told dancing supporters: "This is a signal that the country wants an end to political violence. Today Jamaica won."

Confounding analysts who mostly predicted a close race and inroads by the new National Democratic Movement, the ruling party won about 55 per cent of the votes to Labour's 39 per cent. The NDM won 5 per cent. That looked like giving Mr Patterson's party 49 to 50 seats in the 60-seat parliament.

A dejected Mr Seaga, known by his opponents as "The Don" because of his influence over community leaders, who are often armed, admitted his party had failed to understand the feelings of most Jamaicans.

"If this team did not succeed, we will have to look at which team will succeed and bring to the forefront some new blood," he said. Some saw this as a sign of readiness to hand over the party's reins.

Near the tourist resort of Montego Bay two men believed to be political activists were shot dead in a clash with troops. In a Kingston suburb two brothers were shot dead by what the police called "politically motivated" gunmen passing in a car. A Labour member at a polling station in the St Catherine area was stabbed to death.

In West Kingston gunmen fired on a police patrol and at policemen on a rooftop look-out post. There were no reports of police injuries.