Belfast Telegraph

Monday 21 April 2014

Jamaica's ruling party picks new PM

Bruce Golding announced in late September he would step down as Jamaica PM after a new leader of the ruling Labour Party was elected

Jamaica's youthful education minister has received the unanimous endorsement of ruling party politicians to become the Caribbean island's next leader, outgoing premier Bruce Golding announced.

Mr Golding said he will step down as prime minister on Sunday, about a month earlier than expected, to make way for Andrew Holness, the 39-year-old education minister who has consistently dominated polls asking Jamaicans who should replace the departing leader.

The 63-year-old Mr Golding, who has called for a youthful successor, said the leadership transition will be completed on Sunday when he formally resigns and Mr Holness will be sworn in by Jamaica's governor general in the capital of Kingston.

Mr Golding announced in late September that he would step down once a new leader of the ruling Jamaica Labour Party was elected. The party's leader automatically becomes the prime minister.

After Mr Golding announced that he would step down, attention immediately focused on Mr Holness as his possible successor. He took a big step towards becoming the island's next leader earlier this month when he received the backing of a Labour parliamentary group, including several rivals.

On Sunday, Mr Holness would become the youngest head of government in the island's history. He has promised to fight corruption, improve efficiency, and vowed the debt-wracked island would fulfil its obligations and agreements with international partners.

Mr Holness was first elected to Parliament in 1997, at the age of 25, and was once special assistant to former prime minister Edward Seaga, who was chief of the Labour Party until Mr Golding took over in 2005.

The 81-year-old Mr Seaga said his former assistant's "firm disposition" gives him the "right characteristics" for the government's number one job. He urged Mr Holness to give special focus to improving the economy, saying "until you fix that, you're really not going anywhere".

Political analysts said the selection of Mr Holness will give the ruling party the best chance at beating the main opposition People's National Party in 2012 general elections.

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