Features — 07 March 2018
Only manipulation can save them

The UDP 2018 is the PUP 2006-2008 and the UDP 1996-1998. The people looked at the UDP 1996-1998, saw that it was full of hate, and turned it out. The people looked at the PUP  2006-2008, saw that it was corrupt, and turned it out. The people look at the UDP 2018 and see that it is both corrupt and full of hate. The teachers of Belize looked at this government and decided they had to go on strike to force it to stop trampling our democracy.

There is no way the UDP can win the 2018 national municipal elections if the system is being run as it was wisely, honestly designed. The only hope for the UDP on Wednesday is the “manipulation”.

The UDP can win because the register of electors is dirty. It was mandated that the register be cleaned up ten years ago, but because it serves the government’s interest to have it unclean, it remains so. The election register is an essential part of our democracy. When the register is clean, when the only people who can vote in an election are legitimate, then the principle of one person, one vote holds true. When the system is crooked, the vote is diluted. When the vote is diluted, it works in the favor of the party in power.

The UDP can win if the people who got jobs in the public sector through Ministerial intervention on their behalf, are beholden. There is a sound reason why public jobs are (SHOULD BE) controlled/managed by career public servants. That’s because people who get their salaries from the public purse are servants of the nation, not politicians.

The government has been tried and convicted in the public court for interfering in the jobs process in the public arena. People have no reason to feel guilty, feel like they are biting the government’s hand if they don’t vote for them. Those people who got jobs through Ministerial intervention should not be beholden. A government’s business is to “enable” opportunities for its people. There SHOULD be jobs.

The UDP can win if the people who were hired by crony contractors feel beholden. There are two sound reasons why contracts are awarded through a transparent system. One is to ensure that the people/country get the best deal for its money. The second is to ensure that government cronies don’t hog up the contracts.

We saw the government’s ad with the gentleman who said that working on cement streets put food in his mouth. That is obvious. That’s what all jobs do. We’ll ignore the opinion that too much of our money was invested in cement. Confining ourselves to the “job”, the question is if his boss got the job because of cronyism. If his employer got the contract because he is a crony, then the “party” will expect the worker to be grateful to them.

The gentleman might be an actor. If he is not an actor, the ruling party was wrong to use him in the commercial. No worker who gets a job that is driven by public funds should feel beholden to any government. Ha, the Contractor General “refused” to write a report on contracts the government had given out. The government was asking him to sin against his soul. That retired Contractor General has got questions to answer but, bully for him, he would not whitewash the sepulchre.

The UDP can win if the third parties pry away too many votes that oppose the party in government. Make no mistake, third parties NEVER take away votes from the party in power. These third party leaders are largely genuine, talented Belizeans. Personally, they are my kind of people. However their participation in elections in our system can have only one result. Fifty years of evidence show they can only chip off votes from the main opposition to the government.

The third party leader who told us that “madness is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results”, is guilty of self-incrimination. The evidence can be seen clear as day in the data from the last fifty years. The first-past-the-post system is designed for two parties only.

Sometimes the people can take a peek at third parties. Sometimes that’s a luxury. When you have a government sitting on three consecutive general elections wins, we can’t afford that luxury because such a government poses a definite threat to take us into a one-party state. When the people of the country absolutely have to send a message to the government because everyone knows that they absolutely abused the promise to run a transparent system, voting for a third party in that election is a luxury.

Change, or more of the same

I listened to the mayoral debate in Belmopan, sponsored by UB, and at a certain point I thought that Charles Leslie must have wondered why he was in the race. It is pretty obvious to me that if you are not a communist, you should try to effect change through one of the two major parties.

A couple third party leaders have told me that that can’t be done, that they would not change the party, the party would change them. My response to that always is: a true leader is “willing to march into hell for a heavenly cause.”

The real of the first-past-the-post system is that votes can be taken away from the main opposition party. I am not about vilifying Charles Leslie (BPP) for his candidacy, and Godwin Sutherland (VIP) for his “declared” boycott, I am just sticking to the evidence. The Leslie candidacy and the Sutherland boycott can take no votes away from Khalid, the UDP’s mayoral candidate. But they can take away votes from the PUP’s candidate, Tanya.

The matters that are heaviest on the minds of Belizeans at this time are corruption and violence/jobs. I put violence and jobs together because if we create jobs, violence should be less of a problem.

Keeping it “municipal”, the city/town councils handle money and give out contracts, so this is an issue. Has the present Belmopan City Council been transparent with awarding the contracts, etc.? The present City Council runs on its record. The question for it isn’t if it will do so, the question for it is: Has it done so?

Tanya promises full transparency. So does Leslie. And that’s what the VIP would have promised, had they run. The BPP can’t argue that on the matter of transparency they are bringing something new. All they can argue is that they are offering the same thing.

On the matter of violence, there is a “local” story here too. City/Town Councils can help create an environment where the energies of the people they serve are encouraged. They have influence.

Again, the incumbents making an argument that they will do that is of no consequence when compared to have-they-done-so. The incumbents run on their record. Tanya has offered her ideas. So has Leslie. I don’t see much difference in what Tanya and Leslie are offering.

There is the matter of the overwhelming “mid-term” aspect of this particular “local” election. Khalid Belisle, like Tanya Santos and Charles Leslie, is a worthy candidate. But he is running under the umbrella of a government that has lost its way. Like it or noh like it, a win for Khalid is an endorsement of the government.

All the people in a political party can’t be running amok. A loss in the municipals gives those people in the corrupted governing party a fighting chance to clean up.

The amalgamated “opposition” vote can be ignored by the party in power. The votes that stay away because of the cluttering of the market place can be ignored by the party in power. It’s first-past-the-post so the party in power can hide behind any kind of win. A win solidifies the positions of those people in the party/government who have gone berserk or have exhibited very poor judgment. Wednesday will decide if it’s change, or more of the same.

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Deshawn Swasey

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