February 26, 2006

Woman to become Jamaica’s next prime minister

By Horace Helps

KINGSTON, Jamaica (Reuters) - Cabinet minister Portia
Simpson Miller is set to become Jamaica's first woman prime
minister after being elected president of the nation's ruling
political party.

Simpson Miller, 60, beat a field of three others to become
leader of the 68-year-old People's National Party in an
emotionally charged election among 3,808 party delegates on
Saturday evening.

Simpson Miller, the minister of local government, community
development and sport, will be appointed prime minister when
incumbent P.J. Patterson retires. Patterson, 70, who is midway
though his third five-year term, said last year he would step
down before the start of the next legislative year on April 1.

"Tonight I give the glory to God almighty and a big thank
you to the delegates of the PNP and the Jamaican people,"
Simpson Miller said in her acceptance speech.

"I accept your mandate to serve as president of the PNP. I
pledge to honor my commitment to serve as leader for all

Simpson Miller won 1,775 votes, to beat National Security
Minister Peter Phillips, who had 1,538 votes, Finance and
Planning Minister Omar Davies with 283 votes and former water
and housing minister Karl Blythe with 204 votes.

There were eight rejected votes.

Simpson Miller becomes the fourth president of the party,
which was founded by former premier Norman Manley.

Patterson took over as party leader from Michael Manley in
1992 and was named prime minister on March 30 that year.

The PNP won an unprecedented fourth consecutive five-year
term in October 2002, dealing a humiliating blow to the
opposition Jamaican Labor Party.

When Patterson was sworn in to his third term that year, he
became the first Jamaican leader to pledge allegiance to the
constitution and people of Jamaica, instead of the British
monarch as had been the custom in the past.

Britain's Queen Elizabeth remains head of state of the
former British colony of nearly 3 million people.