BELIZE CITY, Thurs. Oct. 15, 2015–Despite a forecast for a rainy day tomorrow, Friday, October 16, thousands of Belizeans – supporters of the two mass parties as well as a new challenger, are expected to flock to nomination centers across the country as they parade their candidates for early elections due in just a few weeks, on Wednesday, November 4.
Amandala has released its 2015 general election roundup, and at least 86 men and women, including 16 incumbent standard bearers from the ruling United Democratic Party (UDP) (seeking re-election), and 10 incumbent standard bearers from the Opposition People’s United Party (PUP) (also seeking re-election), are billed to seek nomination. (See the table accompanying this article.)
The nomination exercise is used by the parties as an opportunity to flex their political muscle to the public, with their vocal, sometimes rambunctious supporters dressed, naturally, in party colors, each party trying to outdo the other in terms of size and vociferousness.
The increase in the number of political contenders from 75 for the last general elections held on March 7, 2012, to 86 and counting for this year’s vote comes from the historic amalgamation of the third parties which ran separately three years ago. They include the People’s National Party (PNP) and Vision Inspired by the People (VIP), which have merged to form the Belize Progressive Party (BPP).
The PUP and the UDP have each declared that they will form the next government, while the BPP is yet to field a complete slate for the elections.
At last count, the BPP (whose color is green) had announced 24 candidates – 7 short of the 31 available seats; however, it notes that it will still be open to accepting new candidates before 4:00 p.m. Friday, after which the deadline for nomination will have passed.
The size of the electorate has grown by roughly 10% since the 2012 general election, from 178,054 then to 196,587 voters now. Three years ago, 73.18% of voters went to the polls.
The candidates who won by the largest margins were Michael Finnegan in Mesopotamia and Dean Barrow in Queen’s Square, who respectively received 81.6% and 79.12% of votes cast.
In March 2003, the PUP won 22 of 29 available seats. Since then, two new constituencies were added: Cayo North East and Belmopan.
In the subsequent election of February 2008, it was the UDP that won the majority, capturing 25 of 31 seats, with the remaining 6 going to the PUP. However, the PUP made substantial gains in March 2012, capturing 8 more seats, for a total of 14. That left the ruling UDP with only 17 seats.
In by-elections held earlier this year, the UDP has since recaptured two seats: Cayo North and Dangriga.
The ruling party also swept the municipalities which went to the polls this March, winning full slates in 8 of 9 municipalities. In Orange Walk, the PUP won 5 of 7 seats.
Follow Amandala’s election coverage online at: http://amandala.com.bz/news/election-watch-2015/.