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KINGSTON,  (IPS) – Virtually handed the government on a platter in 2006 after an internal campaign, Portia Simpson Miller is going to the Jamaican electorate next month hoping to secure her own mandate to become the country’s first-ever elected woman head of government.

A popular grassroots politician, the 64-year-old who took over from P.J. Patterson as prime minister in March last year is confident she will survive the upcoming elections and lead the ruling People’s National Party (PNP) to an unprecedented fifth straight term in office.

“Are you ready for the first time to give Portia, a working class woman and leader of the winning team, her first full term as prime minister of Jamaica? Are you ready to give to Jamaica a woman of courage, a woman of determination, a woman of the people, from the people and for the people?” she asked supporters as she announced the Aug. 27 election date at a public meeting on Jul. 8.

Patterson, who himself faced the difficult task of succeeding the charismatic Michael Manley, said his successor, who became Jamaica’s seventh prime minister since independence 45 years ago, has done well.

“I gave her the baton and she has been carrying it well,” he told PNP supporters.

Opinion polls consistently show that the prime minister is more popular than her main contender, Bruce Golding of the opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP). In some instances, her level of popularity is as high as 53 percent to Golding’s 41 percent. When respondents were asked who would do a better job as prime minister, Simpson Miller again outscored Golding by 40 to 34 percent.  (Read more)