By Wellington C. Ramos
According to the constitution of Belize, every five years the prime minister has the power vested in him or her to call general elections. The prime minister also has the power vested in him or her, to call the elections earlier if he or she chooses to do so and that has happened several times in the past. Most of the general elections that were held was between the two major political parties namely; the People’s United Party (PUP) the oldest political party in Belize and the United Democratic Party (UDP), a party that emerged out of three political parties in 1973.
Since Belize obtained its independence on September 21, 1981, this will be the ninth general election to be held. The UDP won in 1984, 1993, 2008, 2012 and 2015. The PUP won the elections in 1989, 1998 and 2003. The UDP won five out of the last eight general elections to the PUP, three. There were third parties that contested some of these general elections like VIP and BPP, but they had little effect on the outcome between the two major parties.
Lack of money, failure to organize their parties in the entire country and ‘vote-buying’ by the two major parties UDP and PUP, have made it difficult for the new parties to win seats in these general elections.
For this upcoming general election, there is a new political party that will be contesting this election by the name of the Belize People’s Front (BPF) with their party leader Nancy Marin. Unlike the previous new political parties, they are aggressively seeking candidates in all the constituencies throughout the entire country of Belize to run for office with them. They are also using social media to raise issues like; corruption, the $3 billion debt; abuse of ministerial discretion; vote-buying; gangs; murders; crimes; poor health facilities; unemployment; housing opportunities; small business loan; land and lot non-availability to the citizens; dual citizens’ rights for Belizeans living abroad and many other issues affecting Belize and the nation.
The BPF hope to field a full slate of 31 candidates before the nominations are closed. As of today, they have a total of 17 candidates with 14 more slots to fill. Since the coronavirus pandemic, the government of Belize is being exposed for not having the medical and financial resources to deal with the problem. Many of the Belizean people have become infected with the virus, risk dying, loss of jobs, and availability for years under the PUP and UDP administrations. It is estimated that Belize’s unemployment rate is at least 35 percent.
The PUP and the UDP have never brought a comprehensive employment bill to the National Assembly to create jobs for their citizens. Neither did they create new industries or encourage industries to come into the country to make jobs available to the citizens. The coronavirus pandemic has placed employment as one of the top issues among all issues, not only in Belize but in most industrialized countries in the world. If a person does not have a job, he or she cannot take care of his or herself, much less their needy families.
Both the UDP and PUP are used to winning elections by giving the citizens a few dollars and goodies on election day and then disappear until the next general election. This time Belizeans are saying that they will take their few dollars and goodies and will vote them out.
If the Belizean people commit themselves to their plan of action, then a new party more than likely, the BPF can become the next government of Belize. A political party needs to govern the country of Belize, is to win 16 seats out of the total 31 seats. There is also the possibility, that two political parties end up in a tie with the same number of seats at the top. They will then have to form a coalition government with another party for the first time in Belize’s history.
As the election draws closer, there will be many surprises with all the political parties contesting this upcoming general election. Some candidates might change their constituencies or withdraw. Anyone of these occurrences can have an impact on which political party will form the new government of Belize.
Belizeans living at home and abroad, are not happy with the current conditions they are facing. Based on the history of Belizean people’s voting sentiment, when they get angry, the results of the elections become unpredictable. I will be watching this election very closely because I think history will be made this time.