BELIZE CITY, Mon. June 22, 2020– The crowded field of contenders for the post of United Democratic Party leader has decreased by one aspirant. Over the weekend, it was reported that Dr. Omar Figueroa, the Cayo North area representative who was recently promoted to a full ministerial post in the Dean Barrow-led cabinet, has withdrawn from the UDP leadership race.
We were not able, however, to get an official confirmation of Figueroa’s withdrawal from the UDP Secretariat. When we called today, we were told that there was no one in the office who could confirm that Dr. Figueroa had dropped out of the leadership race. All of our attempts to reach the UDP chairman, Michael Peyrefitte, or the party’s deputy chairman, Alberto August, were similarly futile.
News of Dr. Figueroa’s decision to drop out of the race became public via a post on Saturday from Hot Off The Press, a blog run by UDP insider Delroy Cutkelvin.
In the post, Off The Press asserted that Dr. Figueroa most likely dropped out of the UDP leadership race because he wants to focus his energies on winning his constituency seat in Cayo North for the party.
Dr. Figueroa first ran for national office in the January 2015 by-election that was triggered by the resignation of Opposition People’s United Party area representative Joseph Mahmud, who unexpectedly resigned from his House of Representatives seat. Dr. Figueroa went on to retain the seat in the general elections of November 2015.
In the general elections scheduled for this November, Dr. Figueroa will face off with PUP candidate Michel Chebat.
Chebat made an impressive showing when the constituency voted no in the referendum that was recently conducted to determine whether Belizeans supported the effort of the current government to take Guatemala’s territorial claim to the International Court of Justice.
With Dr. Figueroa out of the leadership race, there are now four candidates who will try to capture a majority of the votes that will be cast by the 570 UDP delegates. The remaining candidates for the party leader post are Hon. John Saldivar (Belmopan), who is still under a criminal probe for his involvement with the convicted fraudsters Lev Dermen and Joseph Kingston; Hon. Wilfred Elrington (Pickstock); Hon. Patrick Faber (Collet), who was defeated by Saldivar last February, and finally, the former two-term Belize City mayor, who is now President of the Senate, Darrell Bradley.
Bradley’s candidacy would pose a kind of dilemma for the party if he emerges victorious, because he is not an elected area representative and has no constituency seat to contest in the general elections. Bradley’s run for the post of party leader is considered a long shot by political observers.
Under the Constitution of Belize, after general elections, the leader of the party who commands the majority in the House of Representatives is called upon by the Governor General to form the government.