MISS World 1993 and four-term Jamaican MP Lisa Hanna has thrown her hat in the ring to be leader of Jamaica’s Opposition party, the People’s National Party (PNP), with a top academic in TT seeing her as a “smart and savvy” person.
Hanna is the Opposition spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade and is a seasoned parliamentary debater who is seen by many, inside and outside of Jamaica, as having star power.
The Caribbean has already had women prime ministers/heads of government in Barbados leader Mia Mottley, and past leaders Jamaica’s Portia Simpson-Miller, TT’s Kamla Persad-Bissessar, Dominica’s Dame Eugenia Charles (now deceased) and Guyana’s Janet Jagan, who is also deceased.
With the PNP badly beaten 49-14 by the ruling Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) in the September 3 general election, PNP leader Dr Peter Phillips has stepped down, leaving open the post known formally as the PNP President. PNP election day is November 7. Hanna had her own woes, having initially been deemed to have won her South East St Ann’s seat by a mere 14 votes, which on recount rose to 32.
However, since then, an opinion poll commissioned by the Jamaica Observer has put Hanna well ahead of other contenders for the PNP leadership, being favoured by 20 per cent of respondents, twice the number who favoured her nearest rival Mark Golding.
Last Sunday, in an online post titled, “I’m ready,” Hanna, 45, announced her bid for the PNP presidency, hoping to “bring back the love” in a party split by internal conflict which many said had turned off voters.
Newsday sought the views of Dr Gabrielle Hosein, head of the Department of Gender Studies at the UWI, St Augustine campus.
“Lisa Hanna’s bid for presidency of the PNP is a strong one, although there are complex considerations such as her margin of victory in her constituency in the last election, the extent to which delegates in the party will vote for her, and the chances of her competitors for the presidency,” Hosein said.
“There are, of course, issues of age, gender and race at play. She’s nationally popular, and has a savvy social media campaign meant to make her seem connected to ordinary Jamaican people.”
Hosein said Jamaica had recently increased the number of women in its Parliament, and that may provide some sense of momentum for Hanna.
“It is clear that she is already a key figure in Jamaican politics, and a recent poll suggested that she was leading as the candidate of choice over Mark Golding for party leadership.”
However, whether she could lead a party that can beat the JLP and Andrew Holness at the polls was another question, said Hosein. As the PNP’s overall votes were very low in the last election, the party would want a leader who can bring out higher numbers of loyal voters to the polls, she added.
“Her age, colour, race and attractiveness, like Holness's, are not incidental to their popularity. They are also both smart and charismatic. They will make for an interesting next election if Hanna can pull the PNP together into a convincing force,” Hosein said.