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Wednesday, 16 October, 2002, 13:37 GMT 14:37 UK
Profile: Edward Seaga
Edward Seaga with supporters
Edward Seaga won the 1980 election

Edward Seaga, the main rival to Prime Minister PJ Patterson in Jamaica's elections, has been a significant figure on the political scene since the country's independence 40 years ago.

JLP supporter
The JLP has gained support in recent weeks
Now aged 72, Mr Seaga served as prime minister between 1980 and 1989 and has been leader of the conservative Jamaica Labour Party since 1974.

He is the country's longest serving MP, having represented Western Kingston since 1962.

Mr Seaga, a banker by profession who now describes himself as a businessman and politician, has been credited with promoting economic and cultural development on the island, including crafts and performing arts.

Social reformer

As minister of welfare and development after 1962, he helped transform one of Kingston's worst slums into the planned community of Tivoli Gardens, which is now the JLP's powerbase.

Edward Seaga
1930: Born in Boston, US, to Jamaican parents
Went to school in Kingston, Jamaica, and university at Harvard
Taught at the University of the West Indies
Political career
1959: Nominated to Legislative Council
1962: MP for Western Kingston
1974: Leader of the Jamaica Labour Party
1980: Became prime minister after beating Michael Manley's PNP
1989: PNP return to power

As finance minister after his party's 1967 election win, he helped develop local financial institutions, including the Jamaica Development Bank, and supervised the transfer of foreign-owned companies to local ownership.

In the 1980 elections, he succeeded Michael Manley as premier, after years of economic decline.

During that campaign, he promised to restore Jamaica to individual initiative and enterprise, and when he won at the polls he was reported as saying the victory was a hard blow for communism in the Caribbean.

He expelled Cuba's envoy soon after.

In a recent television election debate he blamed Mr Patterson's administration for the struggling economy and high crime rate.

"Jamaica used to be the envy of the entire developing world," he said. "Now those countries have gone ahead of us."

But Mr Patterson blamed his administration's economic troubles on the debt left over from Mr Seaga's term as premier.

Personal history

Mr Seaga - pronounced see-ah-gah - was born in the United States to Jamaican parents of Lebanese and Scottish ancestry.

He went to school in Kingston and studied at Harvard. After graduating he joined the staff of the University of the West Indies - researching child development and revivalist cults.

He became a father for the third time in September this year when his second wife, Carla, gave birth to a girl.

See also:

10 Aug 02 | From Our Own Correspondent
30 Jul 02 | Country profiles
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