“You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
For they have their own thoughts.”
– Khalil Gibran
When it comes to politics, I am not a numbers man. I mostly deal with vibes. You know, of course, that I am therefore not a politician, because politics is about arithmetic. My son-in-law, Mark Espat, is a big numbers man, and he has an outstanding record in electoral politics. He and I have some very interesting conversations.
Apart from being an outstanding electoral politician, undefeated in fact, Mark is also a student of politics and an analyst of election results down to the finest of details. The days and weeks after a big election provide him with enormous grist for his research mill.
The recent general election campaign and election day itself were very stressful for me. Having aged, I can’t handle the pressure so well. As you know, I have not been writing this column for weeks. I was angry at the ruling United Democratic Party (UDP) for having allowed a whippersnapper to threaten me publicly, and I felt it was difficult for me to write and remain under control. Then, I began to become angry at the Opposition People’s United Party (PUP), because their sloganeering did not groove with their institutional reality. This was a party manifestly dedicated to their executive, not to the people. For me to have lashed out at the PUP would have perhaps embarrassed or discomfited my candidate son, I felt, so I held my peace.
As the readers whose support has enabled me to survive and raise my family, you have the right to reject these explanations as so much hogwash. In your place, that is what I would probably do. The 2015 Lake Independence campaign and election, however, were incredibly tense. The stakes were high. There were issues involved here which had Cordel in the eye of a storm. As you know, he handled himself particularly well, the Lake I massive behaved like heroes, and things turned out well.
Perhaps things turned out too well, because now there are some oligarchs who have to deal with this Cordel phenomenon. For myself, his popular support on the ground for sure means that the time has come for old Evan X Hyde to take a back seat. I don’t have a problem with that. Trust me.
On Tuesday evening I was still unsure if I could produce a column. Then I started fooling around with some election statistics, and this became the key to unlocking my writer’s block. To repeat, I don’t normally get immersed in figures, but the little numbers work I did on the Wednesday results was fascinating.
And there was so much more one could have done. I did not look at what they call “boxes,” which is usually an absolutely engrossing exercise. For example, my sources are telling me that it was the Hattieville boxes which sank Dolores in Belize Rural Central, after she had done better in the Ladyville and Lord’s Bank boxes than her nervous opponent, the lady Beverly, expected. The story with Hattieville, which was hurriedly built to house those Belize City families who had been made homeless by Hurricane Hattie in October of 1961, is that the village started out so hard core PUP that the Opposition party at the time, the National Independence Party (NIP), could not even hold a public meeting there.
Anyway, most of my Tuesday stats work had to do with constituencies in Belize City, which is where I grew up, work, and live. In the general election analysis business since the gerrymandering of 1984, we usually say that the PUP has to win at least 4 of the 10 Belize City seats in order to win a general election. (Before 1984, Belize City only had six electoral divisions.) This is how many the PUP won in 1989, for example, when they won overall by a 15-13 margin nationally. The PUP, which had only won 2 of the 10 City seats in 2012, did win the requisite Belize City 4 on Wednesday. The PUP won all three Northside seats, but only 1 of the 7 Southside seats. (We arbitrarily include Pickstock among the Southside seats, but you may just as well consider it Northside: Pickstock became a hybrid for the first time in the 2008 general election. Previously, it had always been a Northside constituency.)
I don’t have the 2012 results, but the PUP on Wednesday, I will wager, cut the 2012 UDP margin of victory by thousands of votes in Belize City, when on Wednesday the UDP only polled 788 more votes than the PUP: 14,391 to 13,603. Despite counter-productive decision making at Independence Hall, the PUP did what they had to do in Belize City. It was the North which disappointed them.
There were five City constituencies which had blowout margins on Wednesday, “blowout margins” being arbitrarily defined by us as more than a thousand votes. These were three UDP seats – Queen’s Square, Mesopotamia, and Collet, which have all been doing this for more than a decade, and for the PUP – Fort George and Lake Independence. Port Loyola was a surprisingly narrow victory for the UDP, and Lake was an astonishingly massive victory for the PUP.
The performance of the third party, the Belize Progressive Party (BPP), was very uneven. Only two of their 25 candidates won more than 4 percent of the total votes in their constituencies. These were Phillip De La Fuente in Orange Walk Central and Wil Maheia in Toledo East. De La Fuente totaled a very, very impressive 9.21% (493) of the votes in his division.
There were four divisions in which the BPP candidate’s vote total was greater than the winner’s margin of victory. Three of those were UDP victories – Belize Rural Central, Port Loyola, and Pickstock. There is grumbling in some PUP quarters that the BPP candidates cost them three constituencies. But you cannot guarantee that an independent candidate’s votes would have gone to the loser.
The classic case, and personally traumatic for myself, was in the Collet constituency in 1974. The PUP candidate defeated the UDP candidate by a single vote. Yours truly, the only UBAD Party candidate nationwide, received 89 votes (4.1%) in that election. The UDP immediately claimed that these 89 Belizeans would have voted for their candidate, that I personally cost them the seat, and they began a campaign of vilification against me that lasted for years and decades. I will say today what I said back then: my 89 are my 89. They will remain as such in history. I love them.
Power to the people. Remember Danny Conorquie. Fight for Belize.