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Governing party leaders Saturday selected former Finance Minister P.J. Patterson as prime minister to lead Jamaica through one of its most painful economic periods.

The vote also officially ended the Manley family's control of the People's National Party since its founding in 1938.Patterson, a British-educated lawyer who served as deputy prime minister, promised to continue the free-market reforms supported by Prime Minister Michael Manley, who is resigning because of poor health.

"There's going to be no radical change in direction," Patterson said Saturday.

About 3,100 party delegates supported Patterson by a 3-to-1 margin over Labor Minister Portia Simpson, who waged an electrifying grass-roots campaign for the post. Party officials said Patterson defeated Simpson by 2,322 to 756 votes.

Patterson said he would not just copy Manley's leadership.

"He's got his own style, his own stamp. I've got to bring my own style, my own stamp," said the soft-spoken Patterson, 56, who was scheduled to be sworn in Monday.

Patterson - who has said he will restore business confidence in Jamaica - was forced to resign from the Cabinet in January after granting a $1.47 million tax waiver to Shell Oil. But he claimed he did not benefit from the grant.

The Caribbean nation's economy has been struggling ever since Manley began cutting state subsidies and selling state industries as part of a plan to make Jamaica more competitive worldwide. Jamaica's currency fell to an all-time low against the dollar, and price hikes were announced for milk and cement.

Simpson said she would not challenge the vote and appealed for party unity. She is popular among Jamaica's poor residents.

A delegate from a southern Kingston ghetto, Courtley Francis, said he voted for Patterson because "he's got the financial experience we need to get through these hard times."

But he said Simpson, who administered the nation's food stamp program, had strong public support. "Portia comes to my district, and 5,000 people show up. Patterson comes and gets 100 people."