After having only one Leader for a forty-year period (Mr. George Price, from 1956 to 1996), and only two Leaders for a fifty-two year period (Mr. Price was followed by Mr. Said Musa, 1996 to 2008), the People’s United Party (PUP) has now had four Leaders in six years (Mr. Musa, Johnny Briceño, Mark Espat, and Francis Fonseca). The multiplicity of PUP Leaders in recent years suggests organizational instability.
In Belize’s major political parties, two factors are of paramount importance at the leadership level, and these are personality and philosophy. Mr. Price’s personality was a dominant one inside the PUP. Even so, in retrospect it may be accurate to say that an electoral death knell was sounded at the PUP’s May 1983 national convention when there was a philosophical clash involved with the powerful post of party chairman. The PUP’s entrenched, corrupt right wing won that clash over the party’s new, reformist left wing. The PUP then proceeded to lose the Belize City Council for the first time in their history, in December of 1983, and then went on to lose their first general election ever, in December of 1984.
PUP instability in the third millennium reached a peak at the time of the G-7 Cabinet crisis in August of 2004. This crisis occurred because of a combination personality/philosophy clash over the handling of public finances. The personality on one side of that clash, in fact the target of a Cabinet rebellion, was Ralph Fonseca, whose economic philosophy was a neoliberal one. Two of the rebellious G-7 Cabinet Ministers who later became PUP Leaders, between 2008 and 2011 – Johnny Briceño and Mark Espat, were on the other side of that clash, which is to say, they were opposed to Mr. Ralph Fonseca and his policies. Previous to the G-7, Ralph Fonseca’s de facto power in the Musa administrations had surpasseth all understanding.
In March of next year, municipal elections will be held for the first time in three years. The 2012 to 2015 period will mark the first time in our memory where three years will have passed in Belize without either general or municipal elections. It has remained noisy in the political market, but, in the absence of any election, that noise has been basically masturbatory in nature.
On Tuesday the PUP finally named their mayoral candidate for Belize City, and later this week they are expected to name their Belize City Council 10-member slate. There has been uncertainty going on for too long about these candidates, and there are probably leadership implications involved with the PUP uncertainty in the old capital as compared with the party’s apparent focus in Orange Walk Town.
There are people in the PUP who feel that if they don’t talk about certain things, or if they crow down other people who do talk about those things, then those things are not really happening. When you study textbook philosophy, one of the first scenarios they present to you is as follows: if a cocoanut fell off a tree on a deserted beach, and there was no one to see or hear that cocoanut fall, did that cocoanut actually fall? Both the present PUP approach and the textbook philosophy scenario are mind games, and have nothing to do with the price of beans at the grocery store.
Some of these same people in the PUP will say, in response to this column, why doesn’t Amandala talk as much about the UDP as they do about the PUP? Well, the last time I looked, Ya Ya Marin Coleman was doing a bunch of talking about the UDP. Audrey Matura-Shepherd was doing a bunch of writing about the UDP. Mose Hyde was doing a bunch of talking about the UDP. What was all the writing about Danny Conorquie and Caracol and Hunting Caye addressing? What really is your beef?
The general election results of March 2012 were unprecedented, in that there was a clear difference between Belize City/Belize District voting as opposed to the voting in the five District towns and villages. The PUP, because of support in the five District towns and villages, came extraordinarily close to winning the 2012 general election, whereas the UDP managed to hold on to power on the strength of winning 10 out of 13 Belize City/Belize District seats.
Coming out of the 2012 general election, there was a discernible attitude in some PUP leadership circles which was willing to write off the old capital and concentrate on the Districts. The problem with that attitude was not only the old law of diminishing returns, but also the fact that the UDP is flush with cash and has had three years to repair some of its broken District fences. It is also true to say that no one is absolutely sure why it was that that unprecedented discrepancy between Belize City/Belize District and Out-District voting took place in 2012.
Dean Lindo, arguably Belize’s most brilliant political tactician in the modern era, used to tell those around him that he really didn’t give a hoot about the City Council because national government was where the big money was. So then, these March 2015 municipal elections are not that important in the overall scheme of things financial. In the PUP however, these elections will have consequences. They will either consolidate the power of the incumbent Francis Fonseca leadership, or they will raise ghosts from Orange Walk.
Understand this now: it won’t mean the end of the world for me whatever they choose to do with their party. I am a man in the twilight of my years, and, to quote Jah Cure, I’ve seen many things: I’ve seen paupers turn to kings. Still, if one is not a client of the casino, electoral politics remains the most exciting game in town. Belize is not a place which encourages sports or culture. In Belize, it’s all about politics. It’s become so bad now that even religion has become politics. If you listen to some people, God has decided to choose sides. How ‘bout them apples?
Yeah, and talking about “them apples,” can you imagine the Pascua is right upon us? It must be the climate change, Jack. In Belize, Christmas is the one thing that’s bigger than politics. We’ll spend most of January trying to recover from Christmas. So it’s almost as if there will only be one month for this campaign – February. This could be a good thing, I suppose. Sometimes, they say, less is more.
Power to the people. Power in the struggle.