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Carter Heads Jamaica Election Team

December 17, 1997

KINGSTON, Jamaica (AP) _ Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter says foreign monitors who will observe this week’s general elections will help Jamaicans deepen their democracy and vote free of fear.

Carter’s 60-member team for Thursday’s elections includes world heavyweight boxing champion Evander Holyfield and the retired chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Colin Powell.

It is the first time outside observers will monitor Jamaican elections, which have been plagued with violence since the island won independence from Britain in 1962. Nearly 900 Jamaicans were killed in the bloody run-up to 1980 elections, which were won by Edward Seaga’s Jamaica Labor Party.

This year, violence has been limited to a shootout earlier this month between rival party supporters, in which 14 people were wounded.

``The people of Jamaica will not only choose their leaders, they will have the opportunity to stop violence and rekindle the world’s respect for Jamaica’s democracy,″ Carter told reporters after he arrived Tuesday.

The delegation from the Atlanta-based Carter Center also includes former Prime Minister George Price of Belize, former President Rodrigo Carazo of Costa Rica and former Bolivian President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozado.

Seaga, who lost power in 1988, is hoping to unseat Prime Minister P.J. Patterson, of the People’s National Party. Patterson, who is favored in the polls, hopes to secure his party a record third straight term in office _ and himself, a second full term as prime minister.

This is also the first year a third party is contending most of the 60 seats in Parliament. The fledgling New Democratic Movement, founded by former Labor Party official Bruce Golding, is a distant third, according to recent polls.

All three parties staged their final rallies Tuesday night. A new law forbids campaigning today, the day before elections.

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