With little more than a week to go before general elections in Belize, these may arguably be considered Belize’s least cerebral elections in recent history. There have been no debates between candidates and parties, no such debates appear to be on the horizon, and there have been no formal discussions on the election issues held in public fora or on electronic media panels.
Everything that has been done and is being done in the way of campaigning by the two major political parties is designed to inflame the partisan emotions of their respective followers. At stake on November 4 is spending control over a billion dollars worth of annual public finances. The partisan campaigners and followers of the two major parties are acutely aware of the jobs and bounties which are at stake, so that they were already on edge as soon as the date of general elections was announced. All the paraphernalia being presented – signs, banners, flags, shirts, songs, and so on, mostly inflame the emotions of those who are partisan.
General elections, nevertheless, usually end up being decided by those Belizeans who vote with their intellect as opposed to their emotions. The so-called independent voters have been awfully quiet during the present campaign. And the intellectuals, be they tertiary, professional and otherwise, who should be discussing the issues for the benefit of all the independent voters, have remained in their ivory towers.
Back in the 1950s and 1960s, there used to be a discernible class difference between People’s United Party (PUP) voters and National Independence Party (NIP) voters. The PUP voters were more working class, while the NIP voters were more clerical. In 2015, the class difference between the PUP and the United Democratic Party (UDP), which replaced the NIP in 1973, is no longer discernible, and one wonders if it even exists. The UDP has been going roots, especially in Belize City, for more than two decades, or especially since Hon. Michael Finnegan was first elected to the Mesopotamia seat in 1993, whereas the PUP nowadays does not appeal to its historical working class base as often as in the past.
In fact, there is a division in the PUP between their neoliberal majority and their social justice minority. There is no division in the UDP. What you have in the red is neoliberal dominance, tempered by organized, social welfare programs. There is really no significant philosophical difference between the UDP and the PUP. Thus, what we have in this general election campaign are personality issues.
In March 2012, the general election results, with the incumbent UDP barely winning, were pretty much inexplicable to this newspaper. It has subsequently been explained to us that Lord Michael Ashcroft intervened with his big bucks on the PUP side in 2012, and he did so late in the campaign in certain marginal constituencies which he had targeted strategically. That is as good an explanation as any we have heard.
In late October 2015, the Lord, 69 years of age, is still recovering from extended hospitalization for a life-threatening illness, so we wonder if he will be able to make it personally to Belize. Our sources say that his pollsters have arrived in Belize, however, and Lord Ashcroft has standing, trusted generals in Belize to whom he could send money for distribution in targeted marginal constituencies.
We had to discuss the Ashcroft factor, because it renders our emotion versus intellect paradigm so much more meaningless than it would normally be. And the Ashcroft factor forces us to confront the disturbing possibility that his excess liquidity may have made us Belizeans once again colonial subjects when it comes to general election time. Yes, the Lord is a Belizean citizen, but his heart is in England and his ultimate loyalty is to Buckingham Palace.
Between 1969 and 1972, Belize was still a self-governing British colony. But during those years, it was increasingly the case that to be young and black, was to think UBAD. The rains and flooding in Belize City on Sunday morning, October 18, 2015, exposed the fact that the UDP, after four terms in office since 1984, has not addressed the fundamental issue of housing in the population center. The UDP has not been able to address the fundamental issue of education and skills training. Health is a demonstrable wasteland area in Belize City and in Belize.
Education, housing, and health were core issues raised four and a half decades ago when we were still a colony. We have been supposedly independent for 34 years now, and the general election issue today is still personality and not philosophy.
In conclusion, we return to the campaign matter of emotion over intellect. We suspect that highly educated Belizeans have been intimidated by the ruling politicians. This is not a new phenomenon in Belize, mind you, but we must go back to 1969. Revolutionary intellectuals in Belize opened that year marching on North Front Street. There do not seem to be any such animals, revolutionary intellectuals we mean, in Belize any more. Belize’s intellectuals, those who should know better where the present masquerade is concerned and who should be exposing the game for the benefit of the independent voters, have been castrated. Belize has been re-colonized mentally, and our people are thinking in phrases instead of in paragraphs. We’re just saying.
Power to the people. Remember Danny Conorquie. Fight for Belize.