Editorial — 01 July 2017
Re-registration

The newspaper is disturbed by the decision of the ruling United Democratic Party (UDP) to postpone re-registration yet again. For us, the UDP decision is worse than Machiavellian: it is anti-democratic. Everyone knows that the voters’ lists are dirty, which is to say, people are voting in constituencies where they should not be voting, and some people are voting who should not, strictly speaking, be eligible to vote.

The first time re-registration took place in the post-universal adult suffrage (1954) era of Belize’s modern politics, was in 1978. In 1978, the then ruling People’s United Party (PUP) introduced the 18-year-old vote, which had been a demand of the UBAD Party (1969–1974), and 1978 was the first time Belizean voters were required to have their photographs taken for identification purposes.

In December of 1977, the then Opposition UDP had smashed the PUP’s “Dynamic Nine” in a Belize City Council (BCC) election which appeared to pave the way for a UDP victory in the upcoming 1979 general election. But, the UDP had taken full advantage of loopholes in the old registration process. Before the 1978 re-registration and photo ID, a political party could get fictitious voter names, at random addresses, registered on the lists. You would then need people on election day to go to the desks and vote in the names of the fictitious voters. In those days BCC elections were held separate from Town Board elections, so a political party could bring in voters from the villages in the Belize District, or from the other Districts, to vote in the fictitious names. Also, if a Belize City voter could find a chemical way to prevent the voting ink from remaining on his/her finger, or if he/she could find a way to remove the ink after he/she voted in a polling area, that voter could move to another polling area and vote in a fictitious name.

One of the reasons the PUP did not raise a big stink about the bogus UDP voting was because they knew they were going to introduce photo ID for the big election in 1979. In addition, an established Cabinet faction considered the Dynamic Nine to feature too many Assad Shoman/Said Musa adherents or sympathizers, hence Ministers like Sylvestre and Hunter and Rogers considered the Dynamic Nine an aberration, or expendable.

The PUP knew about bogus voting, because they had begun using voters from Hattieville to do it in BCC elections as early as the 1960s. In the early 1970s, the UBAD Party had discovered how the bogus voter system worked, and in 1977 the UDP used it full metal jacket against the PUP.

As a result of their City Council landslide victory in 1977, the UDP became over-confident, and when they lost in the general election of 1979 some of their candidates could not believe it. The fact of the matter was: re-registration had cleaned up the lists and the new photo ID made bogus voting impossible.

The second re-registration took place 19 years after the first, in 1997, and it was a case of panic by the Manuel Esquivel UDP government after the PUP had won a landslide victory in the 1996 Belize City Council election and followed it up with victories in the 1997 Town Board elections. With the clean lists of 1998, people who had been winning by many hundreds, such as the UDP’s Dean Barrow in Queen’s Square, had their margins reduced, and the PUP won a massive victory.

Party self-interest has so gripped the 2017 UDP that they have found a financial excuse to delay re-registration until after next year’s national municipal elections, even though re-registration is an urgent necessity in order for Belize to prepare for the International Court of Justice (ICJ) national referendum. Legally, re-registration should be held every ten years, so a third re-registration should have been held from the year 2007. It is ten years delayed, and counting…

Belize is a country where there are no polls to establish which way the political winds are blowing. The ruling UDP has been using a propaganda formula of hammering the Musa/Fonseca growth economics excesses of 1998 to 2008, and it has been working for the red party since 2003: the UDP is undefeated since 2003. The UDP has even won a third consecutive term of national office, unprecedented in the post-independence era. But UDP Leader/Prime Minister, Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow, is a lame duck leader in the sense that he cannot become Prime Minister again and, in fact, he has said that he will not contest the Queen’s Square seat in the next general election. In addition, Mr. Barrow’s chronic back problems have led to PUP speculation/hope that he may hand over leadership to his successor, Deputy Party Leader/Deputy Prime Minister, Hon. Patrick Faber, any time now.

The present indications are, nevertheless, that Mr. Barrow will lead the UDP into next March’s national municipal elections, and Mr. Barrow’s ego is such that he is absolutely focused on keeping his election winning streak unbroken. In Belize City, therefore, the UDP has already begun preparing for the BCC election of 2018. And, in order to give themselves a better chance of victory, the UDP has refused re-registration. It is as simple as that.

Belize’s political system, wherein the PUP or the UDP normally win relatively narrow general election victories, and then exercise seemingly unlimited power in office, usually leads to the major political party which is in office beginning to think of itself as God’s gift to Belize. Over the years, we have repeatedly said to you that Belize needs a political system wherein Belizeans can change a government inside of its five-year term. The UDP’s decision to continue refusing re-registration is egregious in its arrogance. On election day in 2015 we were not electing area representatives: we were electing kings and queens.

There are powerful immigrant enclaves here, you know, who do not care whether the UDP or the PUP is in power: these enclaves have always bought out whichever party is in power. This is how roots Belizeans have lost all control of the country we thought was ours in the 1960s and 1970s. We sold it out on election days. Where do you think the money you demand on election day comes from? One day bellyful. It comes from the same people who buy our visas, permanent residencies, and passports. They knew we were for sale, and we thought we were Brer Anancy. Get real, Belizeans.

Power to the people.

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