“Tell me, what other wickedness have you got in mind?”
– Bring back Maccabee Version
We think the administrations of Prime Minister, Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow, have never been more unpopular with the people of Belize, than they are this Monday morning, October 24, of 2016. Belize does not have the regular professional polling of the electorate that they have in the United States, say, but we believe that significant discontent amongst Belizeans at large exists. Not only that, the indications are that there is pushing and wrangling at the highest levels of the United Democratic Party (UDP) Cabinet.
Before we proceed, we should say, once again, that the results of the March 2012 general elections, which saw the Opposition People’s United Party come within 65 votes of taking national power, remain surprising, mysterious even, to us. The PUP had experienced major leadership turmoil just four months before those general elections, and the ruling UDP were expected to win comfortably, if not easily.
The results of the 2012 general elections, it may now be said, fooled the power brokers of the PUP into thinking that the palace (as opposed to popular) leadership of Francis Fonseca, known to be eminently loyal to Said Musa and Francis’ first cousin, Ralph Fonseca, was a viable one. During his four years as PUP Leader, from November 2011 to November 2015, Francis’ PUP never won an election. In fact, the first election in which he led the party – March 2012, was the closest he ever came to winning. March 2012, then, after all is said and done, must be seen as an aberration of sorts.
Let us return to October of 2016. Between late 2003 and early 2004, when the then Opposition UDP was really struggling, this newspaper accepted the fact that any opinion of ours with respect to a major political party in Belize, would never be of much consequence. The two major political parties of Belize, the UDP and the PUP, are so all-encompassing in their own national, philosophical, and practical realities, that opinions from outside of their internal mechanisms are not relevant. We say that to say this: the inability of the PUP to win any kind of election for the last ten years certainly would have provoked comment, and advice, from this newspaper in previous decades, but, to repeat, we have learned that even as advice is totally unsolicited by the big PUDP boys, comment is always unwelcome, and ignored.
With that said, let us then consider this present October, of our discontent without examining the state of the Opposition PUP. Let us suggest, though, for the intellectual stimulation of our faithful readers, that if a general election were to be called today, and if the Kremandala organization and the teachers of Belize, both of which are being victimized by the ruling UDP, were to go against the ruling UDP, then the UDP would be in trouble.
But, there will be no general elections called today, or anytime soon, because the nature of our first-past-the-post electoral system exaggerates the power of incumbent governments to the point where popular discontent is of no account: the five-year term won on general election day is sacred to the point where the mood, opinion, and will of the Belizean people do not matter, in the present case, until November 2020.
Belize’s quasi-monarchical system of governance is outdated. Belizeans should have already graduated from this school of enslavement by elected politicians. We need a governance system where we can change governments whenever we feel like. Straight up. We are losing our sacred patrimony while corrupt politicians, protected by the five-year term, pillage our resources and rape us taxpayers.
In another context no doubt, the late John F. Kennedy once said that those who make peaceful change impossible, make violent revolution inevitable. Belize does not have a tradition of political violence. But it is now obvious that we, the Belizean people, are being robbed in broad daylight. And if we protest, we are pressured in various ways. Our situation is unacceptable.
A big reason for the present system of governance is because general elections are expensive and stressful propositions. The framers of such a system as ours felt that general elections should not be resorted to every time the populace becomes unhappy. In post-colonial parliamentary democracies such as Nigeria’s and Ghana’s, where the national resources of the state were so bountiful as to encourage corruption in elected leaders, these countries’ specific situations were such as to spark repeated military overthrows of elected governments. The experts say that this type of thing could never happen in Belize. We do tend to agree, but the populations of those two former British colonies in West Africa must have felt the same way before the unthinkable began to occur.
We keep saying to you, Belizeans! We need to go the route of proportional representation. It is a more participatory form of democracy, one wherein the elected politicians are more subject to meaningful censure from the electorate. Proportional representation makes for weaker national governments. The corollary of that has to be that the masses of the Belizean people would become more empowered on a day-to-day basis. Proportional representation would surely lessen the possibilities of violence – whether street, military, or otherwise. Think about it.
Power to the people!