General — 21 February 2012 — by Aaron Humes
A total of 74 nominations were accepted today by the various returning officers for Belize’s 31 constituencies to contest the 2012 general elections called for March 7, 2012.
First on their way to the Charles Bartlett Hyde Building in Belize City and to the other various nomination stations around the country was the Opposition People’s United Party (PUP).
For Belize City, on Wednesday, during nominations for municipal elections, the PUP’s on-the ground support was significantly lower than that of their major opponents, the ruling United Democratic Party (UDP).
The PUP showed much more muscle today.
The nine other PUP candidates for the City – Party Leader Francis Fonseca in Freetown; Dr. David Hoy in Caribbean Shores; Dr. Francis Smith in Pickstock; Hon. Said Musa in Fort George; Carolyn Trench-Sandiford in Collet; Gilroy Usher, Sr. in Port Loyola; David Craig in Albert; Anthony Sylvestre in Queen’s Square and Philip Palacio in Mesopotamia – had no trouble with their nominations, but Yolanda Schakron, president of Belizeans for Justice and aspirant for the Lake Independence Division, emerged from inside the complex around 11:10 a.m. fighting tears, after Returning Officer Noreen Fairweather refused her nomination.
Schakron and attorney Lisa Shoman, SC, were at the CB Hyde Building prior to nominations being opened, trying to plead their case for her inclusion after an objection was raised by an unknown area resident. The issue of contesting candidates holding or rumored to be holding dual citizenship and therefore falling short of the clause in the Constitution that speaks to having “allegiance to a foreign power” has quickly evolved into a major subplot of this election.
Displaying her Belizean passport to reporters, Schakron called Prime MinisterDean Barrow “a cold man,” and vowed, “I will continue to be a member of the People’s United Party, and will work hard to put you out of power…”
After speaking briefly to supporters at the gate, she was whisked off to the Supreme Court for the continuation of her case there.
Four of the party’s first-time candidates, Usher, Hoy, Craig and Palacio, told us they felt that they were doing well reaching voters on the ground in their respective divisions and that because the national election has greater importance, more people came out.
Around 12:30 p.m., former PUP representative for the Lake Independence division, Carlos Diaz, was nominated independently for that division. He is known for his work in the area between 1989 and 1993, the term he served in office.
In the afternoon, it was the turn of the UDP, who matched, and according to some reports, bettered their turnout from Wednesday.
UDP Leader Dean Barrow reported counter-challenges to nomination for two of his candidates, Edmond Castro and Erwin Contreras.
He called “desperate” the tactics of his opponents to bring up the Belize Rural North incumbent Edmond Castro’s green card, which he (Castro) later confirmed that he had given up, and the allegation by Cayo West incumbent Erwin Contreras’s opponent (Oscar Sabido, attorney and Senior Counsel) that his opponent has a Guatemalan passport, neither of which stopped them from being nominated.
Mr. Barrow also announced that the UDP will release its national manifesto next Wednesday, with a continued emphasis on social justice initiatives, building on the basis of their just completed term.
The UDP’s candidates in Belize City, in addition to Barrow, are Lee Mark Chang – Freetown; Santiago “Santino” Castillo – Caribbean Shores; Wilfred “Sedi” Elrington – Pickstock; Dr. George Gough – Fort George; Mark King — Lake Independence; Patrick Faber — Collet; Anthony “Boots” Martinez, Port Loyola; Herman Longsworth – Albert; and Michael Finnegan – Mesopotamia.
The final count of candidates nominated is 31 each by the major parties; nine by the Belize Unity Alliance (BUA), a merger of the VIP and PNP; and three independents, Alburn Rivero, Lucilo Teck and Carlos Diaz, for a total of 74.