This coming Sunday’s national party convention, wherein Belize City’s Patrick Faber challenges Orange Walk’s Gapi Vega for the Deputy Leadership of the ruling UDP, is pretty much a no-win situation for the party.
If Faber wins, it means that the Opposition PUP will become stronger in the Districts in time for village council elections. There is an entrenched element in the PUP which has convinced itself that they do not need Belize City in order to win national elections, and they are using last March’s general elections as proof. Had they won the two Cayo seats they lost by fewer than 75 votes, the PUP would have gone to Belmopan as 16-15 winners. If Faber wins, the PUP will argue that the UDP government is a Belize City show.
If Vega wins, the UDP will continue its slow slide into the murky waters of voter cynicism. The Barrow government came to power in 2008 on a reformist ticket of administrative honesty, but Gapi’s questionable reputation is the reason for the Faber challenge where people like the former UDP Leaders, Esquivel and Lindo, are concerned. Mr. Vega’s failure in the 2012 general elections was startling. The PUP won three out of four seats in his Orange Walk District base: largely because of the Orange Walk results, the PUP almost pulled one of the big upsets in Belize’s general election history.
The one good thing for the UDP about the Faber-Vega contest is that such a divisive contest could take place any at all. In the PUP, such matters are settled in Independence Hall behind closed doors. The PUP rank-and-file are not allowed to participate in decision making. The UDP will be able to argue that they retain a visible modicum of participatory democracy in their party, but it is difficult to say whether this type of public relations argument makes any real difference in Belize’s election hurly-burly. There is an ever growing number of Belizean citizens who have been alienated by the PUDP scenario, and they are calling for constitutional change to weaken the power of the two entrenched political parties, a power which is essentially an oligarchical one because of the nature of Belize’s campaign financing.
All power to the people.