One of the most critical ways that individuals can influence a governmental decision is through voting. Voting is a democratic right because of universal adult suffrage in Belize from 1954. (Universal adult suffrage was introduced in Belize in 1954.) In the 1954 Belizean elections, George Price, Philip Goldson, Leigh Richardson, Herman Jex, Enrique Depaz, Jose Chin, George Flowers and Nathaniel Cacho from the PUP all won seats in the Legislative Assembly, which had replaced the appointed Legislative Council. This was the birth of general elections for Belize.
Today, Belize has held eight general elections since independence. The general election of this year has led to the appointment and re-shuffling of Ministerial portfolios, as well as seats in the House of Representatives and the Senate. The Honorable Dean Barrow has been voted in and is now serving his third term as Prime Minister of Belize under the umbrella of the United Democratic Party. This process may seem clear cut and uneventful, yet, to many Belizeans voting in general elections has become a harrowing experience. Voting has now become a deplorable scam that reeks of entitlement, an unclear definition of roles and a lack of respect for the voting process.
Voting is a democratic right. But the general election is treated as a means or mechanism to influence or create some kind of physical or emotional pressure from various parties onto the voter. Electoral candidates need to understand that voting is not an obligation, but a right. This right should not be bombarded with monetary bribery on the day of elections, or be influenced by party campaigners who want to escort a voter right to the doors of the polling station. This assistance somehow becomes the kind of pressure or influence that most voters will want to avoid or escape. Moreover, individual voters should not be paid or sold false hopes or illusions.
It seems that as part of the corruption during the political campaigning, voters feel some sort of entitlement whereby they should gain some sort of benefit in return (e.g. employment opportunity, tuition assistance, etc.). But, this is not really a part of the voting processes. Such misconduct actually falls under bribery and corruption. Voting is a democratic right that should not involve the voters feeling any kind of entitlement simply because they went to the polling station to vote.
There is also a disparity among monetary spending during election times. Where do the funds come from to pay for political ads, banners, flyers, booklets and any other paraphernalia used during campaigning? Large amount of monies are used to allocate to area representatives across Belize for their campaign processes. Will the leading party in power actually have access to more public funds? Or more taxpayers’ dollars? This may create an unfair influence when it is Election Day. Yet, while this excess spending is taking place, little villages continue to remain underdeveloped.
Calla Creek Village is a prime example of how funds are mismanaged, and as a result little villages continue to suffer. Calla Creek Village has a Village Chairman. This Chairman must rely on the development of the community’s tourist industry to be allocated funds for the improvement of that community. The main source of revenue is the resort that is near to that village. Yet, its location near Calla Creek does not profit Calla Creek in any way since the taxes collected from that resort/restaurant go to the public funds of Succotz. Hence, the Chairman of Calla Creek receives little or no funds as the Chairman. 34 years after independence, today Calla Creek still remains stagnant, and underdeveloped, where there’s one school bus, and very little electricity for a few community members. The roads remain a muck when it is the rainy season. Moreover, there is no library and no post office for this village. Why not use some of the monies invested in campaigning to be re directed to improving such communities?
Future elections in Belize should be focused on the development of the country, and not for individual sectional interests, or campaign trails, or by providing entitlements to those voters who feel the government must give them some reward for voting.