BELIZE CITY, Sun. Aug. 27, 2017–The ruling United Democratic Party (UDP) held a convention today on the sprawling compound of the ITVET compound on Freetown Road to select its Belize City Council slate for next March’s municipal election.
In the wake of the departure of the UDP’s two-term mayor, Darrell Bradley, the stage was set for a contested mayoral convention, and incumbent councilors Dion Leslie and Philip Willoughby squared off for the coveted spot.
Leslie handily dusted off Willoughby.
The balloting began at 10:00 a.m. and went on until 5:00 p.m. It was not until after 6:00 p.m. however, that the lines of voters ended and the counting began. A total of 16 persons had placed their names on the ballot to fill the 10 councilor spots.
Thousands of Belize City residents descended on the ITVET campus, decked out in a sea of red T-shirts, caps and other campaign paraphernalia, as the two mayoral hopefuls and 16 councilor candidates dueled in the burning heat to capture the necessary votes that would put them on top.
In UDP’s Belize City Council convention, not only did Philip Willoughby lose badly to Dion Leslie in the mayoral race, but he just made the councilor slate, near the bottom, at 8th place
Although it should have been a political exercise without hostilities, there was tension on the ground as supporters of the two mayoral hopefuls fought for the attention of voters. When the counting was over, late in the evening, Dion Leslie was voted as the man who would lead the UDP slate.
Supporters of Philip Willoughby, who also contested the slate of 16 councilors, erupted in anger at their party for the ministerial support that Leslie had apparently received. Willoughby’s workers and supporters felt that big money was the contributing factor that had everything to do with his loss of the mayoral spot.
The rumor circulating on the convention grounds was that a large amount of money was being spent to bring out the votes for Leslie. Leslie’s father, Tony Leslie, was visibly upset with the process of spending money on voters and he remarked that “this da crackhead democracy.”
“Crackhead democracy” or not, in the mayoral race a total of 5,589 votes were cast. Leslie captured 3,073 votes (or 54.9%) while Willoughby finished with 2,388 votes (or 42.7%) – a difference of 685. There were 128 spoilt ballots (representing roughly 2% of votes cast).
In the councilor race, which had 16 names on the ballot, all the incumbents, except councilor Michael Theus, were re-elected. They were joined by two new faces, Judith Enriquez and Noreen Martinez.
Councilor Hyacinth Cuellar finished in the top spot with 3,938 votes; Alifa Elrington was second place with 3,570; Bernard Q. Pitts, Jr., picked up third place with 3,377; Dr. Alain Gonzalez finished in the fourth place with 3,167; newcomer Judith Enriquez got the fifth most votes with 3,076; Dean Samuels picked up sixth place with 3,045; Jason Edwards, with 2,992, won 7th place; Philip Willoughby secured eight place with 2,951; Kevin Singh got 2,736, putting him in 9th place, and Noreen Martinez got on the slate in tenth place, with 2,708, edging out incumbent Micheal Theus.
After he was declared the winner of the mayoral contest, Councilor Leslie told reporters that it felt good to win after all the hard work that he and his team put in for about a month and a half on the campaign trail.
Leslie thanked the UDP party and all the people who supported him. He also thanked the Prime Minister Dean Barrow, who showed up at the convention to cast his vote along with his wife, Kim Simplis-Barrow.
Leslie said that the people are happy with the UDP City Council which has been in power for the past 6 years. He said that the work for the convention has helped to put the UDP machinery back in line, not only for the municipal candidates but also for the UDP area representatives in Belize City.
Speaking about the Opposition People’s United Party (PUP), Leslie said, “I don’t know who their mayoral candidate is going to be, but that won’t faze me. You see the overwhelming support that we’ve got.”
Minister Anthony “Boots” Martinez was bold enough to say that the PUP will never win back Belize City.