In Third World countries like Belize, the politicians always say they are for the poor. They say this because the poor are more, and in order to win elections you need to get a majority of the votes. In parliamentary democracies like Belize’s, the poor should have a lot of power. Theoretically, all they have to do is unite, and then the poor can elect leaders who will work for the poor.
The reality in Belize is, however, that the poor do not have much power, and that is because our democracy has been subverted by something called campaign financing. Recently, in a poor constituency in Cayo, a multimillionaire PUP crony offered himself as a political candidate. It would have been humorous except that the gentleman took himself very seriously, and he took himself seriously because he knows he will have adequate campaign financing.
The rich have taken over Belize’s political parties and parliamentary democracy because they provide the campaign financing. Poor Belizeans have generally given up on the possibilities for change and progress through party politics, so all they are looking for at campaign/election time is a handout.
This month of September both Belize’s dominant political parties are celebrating anniversaries. The ruling United Democratic Party (UDP), which has won four of the seven general elections since Independence in 1981, will mark its fortieth anniversary, and the Opposition People’s United Party (PUP) will celebrate the sixty-third anniversary of its founding.
The UDP, which was founded in 1973 as an amalgamation of the National Independence Party (NIP), the People’s Development Movement (PDM) and the Liberal Party, can trace its history back to 1951 and the National Party (NP). The National Party and the Honduran Independence Party (HIP), formed in 1957, came together to form the NIP in 1958. The PDM was organized in 1969 and the Liberal Party in 1972.
The purpose of the history in the previous paragraph is to identify its National Party beginning, and to suggest that therein the UDP relied on the public service union for support, because these were the most pro-British colonialism workers in British Honduras. The PUP, for its part, cannot dispute the fact that they relied, at foundation, on the support of the General Workers Union (GWU) for strength, because these were the most anti-British colonialism workers in the colony.
For sure the PUP has moved from left to right, philosophically speaking, over the course of its 63-year history, while the UDP, which was well right of center when it was the National Party, has moved a bit to the left of where it was in 1951.
Both these parties now feature corrupt politicians, permanent cronies, and reliance on the oligarchy for campaign financing. Their development philosophies are basically the same – foreign direct investment and free market capitalism. When a few third parties emerged in Belize a few years ago, all they attacked was corruption. The development philosophies of the third parties were the same as those of the UDP and the PUP.
We had thought that perhaps the UDP would throw a big party for its fortieth, but it doesn’t look that way. We’ve now entered the month which features three weeks of celebrations, and the UDP leaders may have said well, September is all about celebrations anyway, so why bother?
Overall, we can say that Belize’s parliamentary democracy and party politics are where Washington wants us to be. But, this is not where our working people wanted to go in 1950. Belize has become somewhat of a welfare state, wherein the poor, who have increased in numbers and percentage of population, rely on various kinds of handouts.
We don’t want to be party poopers, but when the September high and hype are over, there are some unhappy realities which will return to trouble us. The majority poor of Belize have to accept some of the blame for this. Theoretically, the poor had the opportunity to rule Belize after universal adult suffrage in 1954, but the rich found a way to remain on top and increase their wealth. It is what it is. And it’s not so good.