“But if you want to hear the real story, join the UDP.” – Mark King (7News, February 2014)
Political parties are not regulated in Belize. That fact shakes the foundation of our Belizean democracy. Parties are organizations composed of members who want to democratically govern their country. Is it not disturbing, then, that these organizations may themselves be undemocratic? How can Belizeans expect these members to represent their interests when they are elected if they are entirely unregulated prior to elections?
The two major parties, People’s United Party and the United Democratic Party, are not even registered institutions, because they do not have to be. These parties are viewed as private institutions instead of public utilities. As such, they have no accountability to the people they desire to represent.
This week, when Minister Mark King was interviewed about his recording of Minister Castro, he repeatedly told the reporter to “join the UDP,” because it was “internal party business.” Ultimately, Minister King said, “That is an internal party thing and we are not allowed to talk on that.”
Excuse me. How internal and private can a matter be if all parties in the situation are elected officials? This incident only illustrates a longstanding national issue that requires immediate attention. All political parties should be externally regulated. If they intend to democratically govern a country, their internal party business should also be democratically regulated. Key elements of a democracy are accountability, transparency, and good governance. We cannot keep a party accountable if we do not know its regulations. Parties will not be transparent if their answer to reasonable questions is “join our party.”
The need for regulation is especially important in regards to campaign financing. Have you ever wondered who funds the campaigns for parties in Belize? Where do they get their funding from? Our tax dollars? How if our elected leaders are puppets for wealthy campaign donors? These questions may seem like conspiracy theories, but the unfortunate truth is that these questions must be asked when Belizeans are completely clueless to what occurs within the political party (unless you join the party).
Third parties enthusiastically run each general election. They are already disadvantaged because they lack money to have large-scale campaigns. If we placed limits on campaign finances, a level playing field would be created so that all Belizeans have a chance to represent their people, without having to place a red or blue sticker on their foreheads.
It is an extremely dangerous fact that the parties in Belize are externally unregulated. Ask yourself, are you living in a democracy? Because it feels like an oligarchy.