BELIZE CITY, Wed. Feb. 17, 2021– In just about two weeks, on March 3, the 2021 Municipal Elections will be held across the country of Belize. A by-election will also be held in the Corozal Bay electoral division. This Wednesday, February 17, the Chief Elections Officer, Josephine Tamai, gave the media some details about what can be expected on the day of elections. This will be our 2nd election held during the global pandemic, and Ms. Tamai said that all the prevention protocols that were in place at the polls during the last election will be maintained and enforced more strictly.
“For nomination day we received a total of 160 nominations for all 9 municipalities. We also received nominations for two candidates for the Corozal Bay by-election.” Ms. Tamai said.
The two major parties, the PUP and UDP, have secured their slates and nominations. Also, candidates from the BPP and BPF will contest these elections. Twelve independent candidates have also been nominated, and a person representing the United Upliftment party from Dangriga will contest the election in that municipality.
Two hundred and seventy-two polling stations will be active across the country, according to the Chief Elections Officer, who also mentioned that 18 polling stations will be active for the Corozal Bay by-elections. About 1,500 public officers are scheduled to perform election duties on that day, and police officers will also be deployed across the country to ensure that the special COVID-19 prevention protocols are adhered to strictly.
“We have to ensure the safety of all the voters and public officers and safety for the Belizean citizens as well. And so, we had a meeting and we discussed the protocols that were in place for the General Elections, and we realized what we did then worked extremely well in terms of managing the polling station. So, again, that is an area where we agreed it’s best for us to proceed as we did with the General Election.” Ms. Tamai shared.
All persons in the public must still use face masks, as is mandated by the COVID-19 regulations. Voters will be sanitizing their hands when entering the polling stations, before they dip their finger in the ink, and will use a sanitized pencil at all times. Public officers will be provided with PPE’s, according to the Chief Elections Officer.
Despite all the regulations in place, persons will still have to remove their face masks for a brief moment for identification purposes.
“It’s very critical. Even though people would say, but why are we removing our masks. We have to properly identify voters in order to ensure that the person who is voting is who they say they are. So what we have emphasized, though, for the general public, because persons will be required to momentarily remove it, probably for ten seconds maximum, but we are asking that persons do not speak while that mask [is] being removed,” Ms. Tamai explained.
She also said that the Police Department has indicated that they will ensure that the laws and regulations in place are strictly adhered to outside the 100-yard polling station marker.
“The police will not be there to arrest persons as such, but basically to guide persons and to encourage persons to follow the law, because we want people to come out and vote, and we want people to come out and vote in a safe manner, but again the police can only do so much. Our public officers can only do so much. We need to request the assistance of the public as well,” Ms. Tamai said.
The Chief Elections Officer shared that the cost of conducting this election will be almost 1 million dollars.