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Cablegate: Jamaica: Looming Struggle for Leadership of The

VZCZCXYZ0000
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHKG #0647/01 2041203
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
P 221203Z JUL 08
FM AMEMBASSY KINGSTON
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6570
INFO RUCNCOM/EC CARICOM COLLECTIVE
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS 0536
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 0499
RUEHOT/AMEMBASSY OTTAWA 2317
RUEAWJA/DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHDC
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC
RHMFISS/CDR USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL

S E C R E T KINGSTON 000647

SIPDIS
DEPT PASS CENTRAL AMERICAN CARIBBEAN BASIN COLLECTIVE


DEPT FOR WHA/CAR - ANDRE CADIEUX, VELIA DE PIRRO
INR/IAA - BOB CARHART
WHA/EPSC - MATT ROONEY
INL/LP - NATALIA BOZZOLO
INL/G-TIP - BARBARA FLECK
TREASURY FOR ERIN NEPHEW
JUSTICE FOR ROBERT LIPMAN

E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/21/2018
TAGS: PREL PGOV PINR SOCI SNAR ASEC ECON EFIN KCRM
KCOR, IBRD, IABD, JM, XL
SUBJECT: JAMAICA: LOOMING STRUGGLE FOR LEADERSHIP OF THE
OPPOSITION PEOPLE'S NATIONAL PARTY (PNP); PRIME MINISTER
GOLDING HAS NO PLANS TO CALL A SNAP NATIONAL ELECTION
ANYTIME SOON

REF: A. 08 KINGSTON 245 (191809Z MAR 08)(NOTAL)
B. 08 KINGSTON 571 (251519Z JUN 08)(NOTAL)
C. 08 KINGSTON 621 (112013Z JUL 08)(NOTAL)
D. 08 KINGSTON 310 (141908Z APR 08)(NOTAL)
E. 08 KINGSTON 364 (291558Z APR 08)(NOTAL)

Classified By: Ambassador B.L. Johnson, reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)

Summary, Analysis, and Comment
-------------------------------

1.(C) Respected former Minister of National Security Peter
Phillips will challenge former Prime Minister (PM) Portia
Simpson-Miller for the presidency of the opposition People's
National Party (PNP) during the annual party conference in
September. Phillips shrewdly has calculated that, in order
to wrest the leadership from the populist, charismatic
Simpson-Miller, time is no longer working in his favor, and
thus has thrown down the gauntlet -- marking the first time a
sitting PNP President has been challenged in the party's
70-year history.

2.(C) A crime wave; soaring inflation, food, and fuel costs;
the latest opinion poll results; and prospective court
rulings combine to make it unlikely that PM Golding will risk
a snap general election this year unless at least one, and
preferably both, of the following conditions were to hold:

-- an unanticipated court ruling were to imperil the narrow
parliamentary majority of Golding's Jamaica Labour Party
(JLP);

-- the leadership struggle between Simpson-Miller and
Phillips were to so badly fragment the weakened opposition
PNP that Golding could be confident of gaining a significant
number of parliamentary seats.

The PM does not have to call elections for another four
years; speaking privately with Ambassador, he has confirmed
he has no intention of doing so anytime soon.

3.(C) The worst outcome of the looming PNP struggle would be
a party in which the influence of the more moderate and
pragmatic Phillips faction had been sharply diminished, with
Simpson-Miller remaining Opposition Leader surrounded by, and
beholden to, such left-wing loyalists as Donald Buchanan,
Paul Burke, and Phillip Paulwell. Looking ahead, if the
current JLP Government fails in its economic and national
security reform efforts and Golding loses the next election,
Simpson-Miller then would return to power and form the next
government with Phillips and his supporters relegated to the
back-bench. In such a scenario, Jamaica could go the way of
Haiti: fatally riven by crime, poverty, drugs, gangs, social
disintegration, and emigration -- all the more reason for
strong U.S. support of Golding s ongoing reforms.
End Summary, Analysis, and Comment.

Background: a Marathon Game of Political Chess
--------------------------------------------- -

4.(C) Phillips' recent announcement of his intention to seek
the presidency of the People's National Party (PNP) during
the annual party conference in September is the latest move
in a labyrinthine game of three-dimensional political chess
which has been underway since May, 2002, when newly-reelected
former Prime Minister (PM) P.J. Patterson announced he would
not lead the PNP in any future elections. Patterson touched
off a bitter succession struggle for the party presidency
among the seasoned heir-apparent Phillips, then-Finance
Minister Omar Davies, and the charismatic populist Portia
Simpson-Miller (PSM). PSM's eventual victory left deep
wounds from which, despite an outward veneer of unity during
the 2005-06 PNP Government, the party never has recovered
(reftel A). The once-vaunted PNP machine has lost three
successive elections: the 2003 local government election, the
general election of 2007, and another subsequent local
government election.

Why Throw Down the Gauntlet Now?
--------------------------------

5.(C) Opposition Leader PSM's spirits have been lifted by
two recent polls: one giving her a personal popularity rating
six points ahead of incumbent PM Bruce Golding (still favored
by a plurality as the best leader of the country), and a
second indicating that the PNP has pulled to within two
percentage points of Golding's ruling Jamaica Labour Party
(JLP) in overall support. Buoyed by the first encouraging
news in months, PSM's supporters have decried the timing of
Phillips decision to challenge her for the leadership; some
accuse him of recklessly sacrificing the party's interests in
pursuit of personal ambitions. In Post's estimate, the
58-year old Phillips' move is anything but reckless: it has
been calculated carefully and timed strategically, based on
the following factors:

(A) An alarming crime wave, resurgent inflation, and high oil
and food prices are taking a heavy toll on average Jamaicans
(reftels B,C,D). Coming from humble origins and representing
the grass-roots, populist wing of the PNP, the charismatic
PSM is a master at projecting empathy with the poor and
downtrodden. Given her recent up-tick in the polls, Phillips
can no longer safely assume that she would lose a possible
snap general election, should Golding call one, and
subsequently be ousted as PNP Leader. ((Comment: Post
believes this would have been Phillips' preferred route to
the PNP presidency -- but it now looks unlikely: in the
course of a lengthy private meeting with Ambassador on July
21 (septel), PM Golding confirmed that he does not plan to
call an election anytime soon. End Comment.))

(B) The Court of Appeal will not hear the application of
defeated PNP candidate Abe Dabdoub, who is seeking to be
awarded the West Portland parliamentary seat without having
to face a by-election against the JLP's Daryl Vaz
(disqualified because of dual citizenship, reftels D,E) until
November 24. Few observers believe Dabdoub's application
will prevail, fewer still that he could win a by-election.
PM Golding has stated publicly that, rather than allowing
members-of-parliament (MPs) to be seated by the courts
without having been elected, he would call a snap general
election. Yet most observers believe that, both in West
Portland and several other constituencies in which JLP MPs
face similar legal challenges, the most likely eventual
outcomes are by-elections won by the incumbents ) thus
leaving the narrow 32-28 JLP parliamentary majority intact.

(C) In light of the above ) crime, inflation, polling
results, and prospective court rulings ) PM Golding is
likely to call a snap general election this year only if at
least one, and preferably both, of the following conditions
hold:

-- an unanticipated court ruling imperils the narrow JLP
parliamentary majority;

-- the leadership struggle between PSM and Phillips so badly
fragments a weakened, polarized PNP that the ruling JLP could
be confident of gaining a significant number of parliamentary
seats.

After all, Golding does not have to call elections for
another four years, and would be taking a real risk in doing
so.

(D) Finally, with the PNP's coffers seriously depleted,
Phillips is universally recognized by the party faithful as
the better fund-raiser, enjoying closer ties to the middle-
and upper-classes and business community. A number of
influential PNP organizers and activists reportedly have
shifted their support from PSM to Phillips (including,
ominously, at least one figure with reputed underworld
connections).

Factoring in all the above trends, Phillips shrewdly has
calculated that, in order to wrest the PNP leadership from
the charismatic PSM, time is no longer working in his favor
) and thus has thrown down the gauntlet in advance of the
annual party conference.

How Divisive a Showdown?
------------------------

6.(C) Given the bitter history of rivalry between them and
their respective PNP factions (reftel A), whether Phillips
and PSM can again contest the leadership without fatally
weakening the party is an open question. Phillips is likely
to avoid frontal attacks against the charismatic Opposition
Leader, instead acknowledging her loyal service to the party
while portraying himself as the better-organized,
more-seasoned figure who can defeat Golding whenever the next
election may come and thus return the PNP to power. For her
part, PSM is unlikely to yield the leadership gracefully: she
recently stated publicly that: "when I hand over the baton,
it will not be to my generation, but to the next generation
of young persons of the People's National Party."

Possible Implications for U.S. Policy
-------------------------------------

7.(C) From Post's perspective, the worst outcome of the
looming PNP struggle would be a party in which the influence
of the more moderate and pragmatic Phillips faction had been
sharply diminished, with Simpson-Miller remaining Opposition
Leader surrounded by, and beholden to, such left-wing
PSM-loyalists as Donald Buchanan, Paul Burke, and Philip
Paulwell (reftel A). Looking ahead, if the current JLP
Government fails in its economic and national security reform
efforts and Golding loses the next election, Simpson-Miller
then would return to power and form a new government in which
Phillips and his supporters would be relegated to the
back-bench. As noted reftel (B), in this scenario Jamaica
could go the way of Haiti -- fatally riven by crime, poverty,
drugs, gangs, social disintegration, and emigration -- all
the more reason for strong U.S. support of Golding's ongoing
reforms.
JOHNSON

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