General — 17 February 2012 — by Aaron Humes and Stacey Kelly
The official numbers are still not yet in, according to the chairman of the Election and Boundaries Commission, Alberto August, but the Opposition People’s United Party (PUP) and incumbent United Democratic Party (UDP) yesterday, Wednesday, submitted full slates of 67 for all 9 municipalities – eleven prospective members for the Council in Belize City and seven for each of the other municipalities, including Belmopan City.
The VIP ran a partial slate of 7 in Belize City and a full slate of 7 in Belmopan; the People’s National Party (PNP) is contesting a full slate in Punta Gorda, and there are a handful of independents.
But whoever they are, all claim that luck – as well as the people – is smiling on them.
The PUP was first out of the gate just after ten Wednesday morning, beginning with a rally at the Berger Field on Vernon and Sarstoon Streets, followed by a motorcade procession to the Charles Bartlett Hyde Administration Building on Mahogany Street Extension.
Mayoral contender Karen Bodden, running for the first time in any election, said she was “humbled” by the attention she is receiving from potential voters on the campaign trail and the discussions they hold.
“All who know me know I am not about pomp and circumstance; so if it was up to me, I would have come out here on my own, to make the message clear that I am here to work,” Bodden told Amandala and Plus TV.
Among the party’s councilor candidates is Swami Babani, who is the first representative of the Indian/Middle Eastern community to run for political office.
Party leader Francis Fonseca told us he was satisfied with the support for the PUP team, but reminded us that “the crowd that is important is the crowd that comes out on March 7.”
The party’s manifesto is due out on Monday, February 20.
While not showing the same on-the-ground muscle that has come to be expected from the main parties, the independent/third party movement believes it can match them strength for strength on polling day, and that confidence was present on Wednesday.
Vision Inspired by the People (VIP) mayoral candidate, Paco Smith, readily admitted the shortage of “people power” on the ground, in speaking with reporters on Wednesday afternoon.
Smith dismissed both the PUP and UDP parades as “rent-a-crowd,” adding that the VIP “movement” does not engage in or tolerate vote buying: “…one of the things we bank on, very clearly and definitively, is the fact that, though we may not have the finances to match these political entities, we have the goodwill and social capital… we don’t have the political baggage that the red and the blue have…”
Meanwhile, we also heard from independent Mayoral candidates Ernesto Torres and Stephen Okeke, and councilor candidate Philip “Fawda” Henry.
“I’m not going in there as one man,” Torres told Amandala. This has been “where we went wrong,” that people simply want those in charge, once elected, to work together “for the common good of City residents,” without political stripes, he said.
Torres decided to run as an independent after missing out on both UDP and PUP slates, and says people have told him they will not vote for him on a traditional slate, and prefer him to run as an independent.
Okeke promised to “end the secrecy” and usher in “participatory governance” for the City, making residents able “to own Belize City again.”
He explained that the problems facing the City are not much different from those in a corporate boardroom, a re-statement of his “Belize City as business” model, under which he is running.
Henry, meanwhile, told us he is counting on his popularity and goodwill from “blowing the whistle” on City Hall a year ago to be elected, and promised to focus on youth issues and reducing crime by implementing social programs for both young and old. He insisted that more dialogue is needed between City Hall and Belmopan, which the UDP have failed to do.
The incumbent United Democratic Party, UDP, was last in the nomination process yesterday, their numbers swelling the streets to the Charles Bartlett Hyde Administration Building at 2:00 p.m., after the parade began from the UDP Headquarters on Youth For The Future Drive, and down Mahogany Street, to the complex.
The Prime Minister of Belize, Hon. Dean Barrow, led the parade.
Barrow told us at the end of the parade that he is confident that his party will be given another mandate by the people of Belize. He told us, “By and large, they give us high marks for what has been done … of course, we have simply not been able to produce at the level where we can satisfy 70% of the people, but … the electorate is certain that we deserve a second chance.”
We also spoke with a few of the UDP nominees, including the mayoral candidate Darrell Bradley. He told us that he is, like the other UDP City Council candidates told us, “humbled” by the large show of support by the people.
Bradley told us, “The support has been overwhelming … when I get to City Hall, I really [need to] live up to that high expectation that the people have of me, and have of the City Council, to ensure that we get the kind of services and deliver the kind of leadership that they want.”
“When I get to City Hall, people won’t have to worry about any allegations of corruption or anything like that; every single day, I will be focused on the people’s business, and that is what drives me.”
We also spoke with Bernard Q. Pitts, Jr., the son of the Attorney General, who is a first-time political aspirant for the post of City Councilor. Pitts told us today, “I am excited. I am humbled. I am really enjoying this support that we are having here; we have seven thousand-plus supporters out here right now, so it is a wonderful feeling.”