By Wellington C. Ramos
On March 7, 2012, the people of Belize will go to the polls to vote for the candidates who are running for offices in the municipal and general elections. The two main political parties in the country of Belize are the United Democratic Party (UDP), currently in control of the government, and the People’s United Party (PUP), the oldest political party. The two other political parties are the Vision Inspired by the People (VIP) and the People’s National Party (PNP).
The last time a general election was held in Belize was in February 2008 and the United Democratic Party won the election by a landslide, defeating the People’s United Party by a margin of 25 to 6 seats. They also won all the city councils and town boards in the municipal elections that were last held in 2009 and which are due every three years.
There are 31 seats in the Belize House of Representatives and the party that wins the most seats forms the new government and remains in office for a period of five years. Twelve senators are appointed by the party in government and the opposition parties based on the amount of seats they obtained in the House of Representatives. Elections are not due in Belize until next year but the Prime Minister Dean Barrow decided to call early elections. In the last election, the main issue was corruption in government and gross abuse of power by some of the ministers of government in the People’s United Party.
This election will be about unemployment and economic issues, because most Belizeans are concerned about their future. Crime was the concern a few years ago with the gang members in Belize. Especially on the streets of the old capital Belize City, where the majority of Belizeans live, the government passed some tough anti-crime legislation, implemented programs for gang members and introduced other reform measures which have led to a reduction in street violence and violent crimes.
Belizeans will re-elect the United Democratic Party to power because the People’s United Party is fragmented, has abandoned several of its core constituent groups, changed its focus and has failed to convince most Belizeans that it would serve in their best interest.
Changing the leader of the party John Briceno to Francis Fonseca has convinced most Belizeans that within the People’s United Party there are certain families, factions and interest groups who still want to control the party as if it belongs to them and them alone. They had a second chance to redeem themselves and convince many of their supporters that they are still the party of the people, when Representative Mark Espat was thinking about becoming the leader of the party after John Briceno stepped down as leader.
However, his demands were not met and he withdrew his candidacy for leadership of the party and later decided not to seek re-election in his Albert Division constituency. This was followed by the refusal of his brother-in-law Representative Cordel Hyde to follow suit and decided not to run for the Lake Independence constituency. His committee wanted Carlos Diaz, a former minister of government in a PUP administration to replace him.
The executive of the People’s United Party wanted Yolanda Shakron, who was not qualified because she possesses dual citizenship with the United States and her candidacy was not accepted on nomination day. She was then replaced by her brother without consulting the members of the division and Carlos Diaz then decided to run as an independent candidate.
These are two seats that the People’s United Party had held for three terms a total of about fifteen years and which they now risk losing. The Albert Division constituency was the strongest UDP seat that was held for many years by the most popular politician in their party, the late Philip Goldson. The People’s United Party decided to replace Mark Espat with one of the late George Price’s nephews, Charles Craig, which is proof that it is one big family that controls the party. In Belize Rural Central his first cousin Dolores Balderamos is running against Cadet Henderson and there are two Espat brothers running in two other constituencies.
Nepotism is widespread in the People’s United Party and Belizeans have become resentful to this type of politics. If you look at the personalities in the People’s United Party and you compare them with those in the United Democratic Party today, the UDP is more representative of what Belize ethnically looks like.
Belizeans are very smart voters and they will vote for one party to be in control of the central and municipal governments. They know that if they elect a different party to represent them in the city and town councils, they risk not getting any money from the central government for five years.
Independent candidates cannot do anything for anybody by themselves but just give speeches in the House of Representatives while they get paid. Also, the current third parties have done nothing to organize themselves throughout the country of Belize in the last three years to contest this municipal and general elections.
Based on these factors that I have outlined, on the night of the election I expect the United Democratic Party to be re-elected for a second term in Belize by a wide margin. Elections are won on election day and the United Democratic Party will make sure that they bring out every vote to make this happen. In the past, many Belizeans were being paid to vote but the last election proved that Belizeans will take your money and still vote against the candidate who paid them.