BELIZE CITY, Mon. Nov. 9, 2020– After a decade of significant infrastructure achievements but many major failures, including the absence of honesty, transparency and accountability, which the UDP had promised when it rode into power, the year began with many pundits considering a possible landslide win for the Opposition PUP in this year’s general elections. However, after the events of this year so far, it now looks as if it could be close after all.
With the economy in shambles and spiraling, almost untenable debt, 2020 began with a mood of supreme optimism regarding the chances of victory for the Opposition People’s United Party (PUP) in this general elections year, while the incumbent United Democratic Party (UDP) government was trying to figure out who would be their new leader, and their prospects for a possible fourth consecutive victory at the polls seemed very questionable.
But early in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic emerged, and the whole world changed. Suddenly, everything depended on the procurement of more loans and grants by the governing UDP, and the handing out of those funds to a desperate population, as the economy ground to a near halt with repeated States of Emergency.
Many jobs have been lost, and businesses closed down, but in the climate of this pandemic, the lines have been getting blurred for a poverty-stricken populace living from hand-to-mouth, meanwhile the government has managed to hold to its promise of no retrenchment of public officers “before the elections,” so the political landscape is not the same as it was at the start of the year. In times of emergency, poor people are prone to feelings of gratitude to whoever lends a helping hand.
The UDP government, for all their failings and accusations of corruption over the past decade, have been dealt a good hand for election purposes this year, due to an emergency climate that was once again reinforced with the advent of floods from hurricane Eta that devastated parts of Central America on Tuesday and Wednesday of last week.
On Saturday, at a press conference to address the efforts of NEMO in assisting flood victims and repairing washed-out roads, UDP ministers had a field day acting the roles of “Savior,” and they played their parts to a hilt, with Prime Minister Dean Barrow even repeatedly referring to Minister Patrick Faber as “Party Leader,” when Faber was given a chance to give his inputs as Minister of Education. As Minister of NEMO, Belize Rural North area representative Edmond Castro also had huge campaign opportunities as he discussed all the great things they were doing to deal with the situation.
Even National Security Minister Michael Peyrefitte threw in his pound for the party, though not explicitly mentioning the UDP, as he had a lot to say about government’s efforts to martial the resources of the BDF to help in the recovery effort for those affected by the floods. They say that, in business and politics, publicity is vital, and the circumstances proved beneficial to the UDP only a few days before general elections, as they had a legitimate reason for a government press conference, at which they undeniably achieved some major party political mileage.
With that kind of momentum, it is not surprising that, despite the cries of some that it will be difficult for many villagers to reach the polls due to the floods, which are not expected to recede to normal levels by Wednesday, Prime Minister Barrow and his UDP ministers have declared that no postponement is planned for the coming elections. According to Barrow, it is not as if we have been hit by a category 5 hurricane — implying that, as difficult as it will be for some public officers who have both NEMO and election day duties to perform, the elections can still be held successfully.
Meanwhile, the PUP have continued their radio and television campaign programs as well as their Belize Times newspaper advertisements to power their party’s drive toward election day.
And, with their limited resources, the other contesting parties, the Belize Progressive Party (BPP) and Belize People’s Front (BPF), are also gearing up to give their best effort in the areas they are contesting, hoping to achieve one or more upset victories, although neither are fielding enough candidates to stand any chance of forming the next government.
With no major cries for postponement coming from the Opposition PUP, or the third parties, the mood seems to be everywhere, “Let’s get this over with.”
A history-making election
The coming general elections on Wednesday, November 11, will be the first since Belize’s Independence that will feature a 3-term serving incumbent, with the UDP having won in 2008, 2012 and 2015. It will also be the first to be held in the midst of a raging pandemic, as well as with the country being still under the effects of major flooding associated with Hurricane Eta that made landfall last Tuesday in Nicaragua but impacted the region with heavy rains.
With Prime Minister Dean Barrow having relinquished his post as UDP leader, the UDP will contest the upcoming elections under new party leader, Hon. Patrick Faber. The PUP will also be featuring a new leader in this election, Hon. John Briceño. As expected, both major parties will be contesting all 31 constituency seats. The Belize Progressive Party (BPP), led by Patrick Rogers, will contest 8 seats; the Belize People’s Front (BPF), led by Nefretery Nancy Marin, will contest 13 seats; and there are 5 independent candidates.
A CARICOM Observer Mission should have arrived in Belize over the weekend, and will be here to observe our whole election process, from the pre-election period, through election day, until the final tabulation and announcement of results. They are expected to depart on Friday of this week. The team, headed by Jeanette Sonia Charles of Antigua and Barbuda, includes five electoral officials from that country as well as from Barbados, Grenada and Suriname. The team will also be accompanied by two CARICOM Secretariat support staff. Of course, like all of us, they will be required to observe our health and safety protocols at all times. Welcome to the Jewel!
Between 1954, when Universal Adult Suffrage was first realized in Belize, and 1979, the last general election before Independence in 1981, the People’s United Party (PUP) enjoyed a string of 7 consecutive victories at the polls. Although the margin of victory became reduced in the latter 2 general elections in the 1970s, it was still “PUP All The Way” in pre-Independence Belize. (Belize continues to use the “first past the post” electoral system. The country’s name was officially changed from British Honduras to Belize in 1973, after the new administrative capital, Belmopan, was inaugurated in 1970.)
Here is a summary of previous general election results with assistance from the Belize Election Center at caribbeanelections.com:
Wed. Apr. 28, 1954 – 14,546 votes (70.4% turnout) – PUP/GWU won 8 of 9: A coalition between the PUP and the General Workers Union (GWU), the PUP/GWU, won 8 of 9 seats contested (65.0% of votes). The pro-colonial National Party (NP) won 1 seat of 7 contested (23.0% of votes); and independent candidates won 0 of 4 seats contested (12.0% of votes).
Wed. Mar. 20, 1957 – 11,214 votes cast (52.7% turnout) – PUP won 9 of 9: The PUP, led for the first time by George Price (who would lead the party until 1996) won all 9 seats contested (61.3% of votes). The new Honduran Independence Party (HIP), led by former PUP leader Leigh Richardson, won 0 of 6 seats contested (18.4% of votes); the National Party (NP) won 0 of 7 seats contested (12.9% of votes); and independent candidates won 0 of 4 seats contested (7.4% of votes).
Sun. Mar. 26, 1961 – 21,611 votes (80.4% turnout) – PUP won 18 of 18: The PUP won all 18 seats contested (64.7% of votes); the National Independence Party (a merger of HIP and NP in 1958) won 0 seats (23.6% of votes). The new Christian Democratic Party (CDP), formed by former PUP and NP members, won 0 seats (11.6% of votes); and independent candidates won 0 seats (0.1% of votes).
Mon. Mar. 1, 1965 — 26,431 votes (71.9% turnout) – PUP won 16 of 18: The PUP won 16 of 18 seats contested (57.8% of votes); the NIP, now led by Philip Goldson, won 2 of 18 seats contested (39.3% of votes); and independent candidates won 0 seats (2.9% of votes).
Fri. Dec. 5, 1969 – 21,900 votes (75.0% turnout) – PUP won 17 of 18: The PUP won 17 of 18 seats contested (58.8% of votes); the NIP won 1 of 18 seats contested (40.7% of votes); and independent candidates won 0 seats (0.5% of votes).
Wed. Oct. 30, 1974 – 23,298 votes (70.6% turnout) – PUP won 12 of 18: The PUP won 12 of 18 seats contested (52.6% of votes); the new United Democratic Party (UDP), formed the previous year from the merger of the NIP with the People’s Development Movement (PDM) and the Liberal Party (LP), won 6 seats (38.9% of votes) – they fielded no candidates in Corozal. The Corozal United Front (CUF) won 0 seats (4.5% of votes); the United Black Association for Development (UBAD) won 0 seats (0.4% of votes) – 1 candidate only; and independent candidates won 0 seats (3.6% of votes). (The UDP, led by Dean Lindo, absorbed the CUF after the election.)
Sat. Nov. 24, 1979 – 44,450 votes (89.8% turnout) – PUP won 13 of 18: The PUP won 13 of 18 seats contested (52.4% of votes) in what was considered a referendum on the Independence mandate; the UDP won 5 of 18 seats contested (47.4% of votes); and the Toledo Progressive Party (TPP) won 0 seats (0.2 % of votes)— 1 candidate only.
The picture changed drastically in post-Independence Belize, with the 1980s and 1990s seeing repeated changes of government, until the PUP won back-to-back at the turn of the century, and then the UDP followed with three consecutive general election victories to bring us to the present.
With redistricting a few months before the general elections, 10 more seats were added, making it 28 seats to be contested in the 1984 general elections. The PUP had never lost an election up to this point.
Fri. Dec. 14, 1984 – 47,608 votes (74.9% turnout) – UDP won 21 of 28: The UDP, with Manuel Esquivel as the new leader since 1983, won 21 seats of 28 contested (54.0 % of votes); the PUP won 7 of 28 seats contested (44.0% of votes); the Christian Democratic Party (CDP) won 0 of 2 seats contested (0.5% of votes); and independent candidates won 0 of 3 seats contested (0.5% of votes). A total of 61 candidates, the most up to that point, participated in this general election.
Mon. Sept. 4, 1989 – 58,951 votes (72.6% turnout) – PUP won 15 of 28: The PUP rebounded with a surprise victory, winning 15 of 28 seats contested (50.9% of votes); the UDP won 13 of 28 seats contested (49.0% of votes); and the lone independent candidate won 0 seats (0.1% of votes). A total of 57 candidates contested the elections.
Wed. June 30, 1993 – 70,431 votes (72.1% turnout) – UDP/NABR won 16 of 29: Manuel Esquivel’s UDP formed a coalition with Philip Goldson’s National Alliance for Belizean Rights (NABR), formed after passage of the Maritime Areas Act, and they won 16 of 29 seats contested (48.7% of votes) (Seats were increased to 29, from 28 in the previous general election.). The PUP won 13 of 29 seats contested (51.2% of votes); and independent candidates won 0 of 2 seats contested (0.1% of votes).
Thurs. Aug. 27, 1998 – 84,345 votes (90.1% turnout) – PUP won 26 of 29: The PUP, under its new leader since 1996, Said Musa, won 26 of 29 seats contested (59.67% of votes); the UDP won 3 of 29 seats contested (39.40% of votes); the People’s National Party (PNP) won 0 seats (0.27% of votes); NABR won 0 seats (0.21% of votes) (Philip Goldson did not run.). The National Reality Truth Creation Party (NRTCP) won 0 seats (0.01% of votes); and independent candidates won 0 seats (0.44% of votes). A total of 78 candidates, 75 from 5 parties and 3 being independents, contested the elections. Former prime minister Manuel Esquivel lost his seat in this election, and was replaced shortly afterwards by new UDP leader Dean O. Barrow, who, until his recent retirement, is undefeated as area representative for his Queen’s Square division.
Wed. Mar. 5, 2003 – 99,570 votes (79.6% turnout) – PUP won 22 of 29: The Said Musa-led PUP, in their first back-to-back victory since Independence, won 22 of 29 seats contested (53.5% of votes); the Dean Barrow-led UDP won 7 of 29 seats contested (45.2% of votes); and independent candidates won 0 of 15 seats contested (1.3% of votes). A total of 73 candidates contested.
Thurs. Feb. 7, 2008 – 120,301 votes (72.7% turnout) – UDP won 25 of 31: With seats increased from 29 to 31, the UDP won 25 of 31 seats contested (55.72% of votes); the PUP won the remaining 6 of 31 seats contested (42.18% of votes); the National Reform Party (NRP) won 0 of 11 seats contested (0.86% of votes). Vision Inspired by the People (VIP) won 0 of 11 seats contested (0.73% of votes); People’s National Party (PNP) won 0 of 2 seats contested (0.26% of votes); National Belize Alliance (NBA) won 0 of 2 seats contested (0.16% of votes); the NRTCP won 0 of 2 seats contested (0.02% of votes); and independent candidates won 0 of 3 seats contested (0.06% of votes). A record total of 93 candidates participated in this general election.
Wed. Mar. 7, 2012 – 128,840 votes (73.2% turnout) – UDP won 17 of 31: The UDP won their first back-to-back victory since independence, taking 17 of 31 seats contested (50.26% of votes); the PUP, under new leader Francis Fonseca, won the remaining 14 of 31 seats contested (48.17% of votes); VIP won 0 of 2 seats contested (0.30% of votes); PNP won 0 of 7 seats contested (0.64% of votes); and independent candidates won 0 of 4 seats contested (0.64% of votes). There was a total of 75 candidates who participated in this general election.
Wed. Nov. 4, 2015 – 141,431 votes (77.2% turnout) – UDP won 19 of 31: Calling elections a year before constitutionally required, Prime Minister Dean Barrow led the UDP to an unprecedented third consecutive victory with 19 of the 31 seats contested (50.52% of votes); the PUP under Francis Fonseca won the remaining 12 of 31 seats contested (47.77% of votes); the new Belize Progressive Party (BPP) won 0 of 25 seats contested (1.65% of votes); the new Belize Green Independence Party (BGIP) won 0 of 1 seat contested (0.00% of votes); and independent candidates won 0 of 2 seats contested (0.05% of votes). A total of 90 candidates participated.
General Elections 2020, November 11
So, the table is set for general elections on Wednesday, November 11. According to the Elections and Boundaries Department website, www.elections.gov.bz, there are 88 candidates nominated for the 2020 general elections —75 males and 13 females.
Party colors displayed on the Elections and Boundaries Department website appear to be: UDP – red; PUP – blue; BPP – green; BPF – purple; and independents – various other colors.
Remember to do the right things and stay safe on election day!