BELIZE CITY, Sun. Nov. 11, 2018– The ruling United Democratic Party (UDP) held a contested constituency convention today, Sunday, at the ITVET campus in which three candidates ran for the spot of standard bearer for the Freetown constituency.
Less than one hour after the polling closed at 5:00 p.m., a crowd of energized supporters of the candidate Orson J. Elrington erupted in euphoric noise, ringing out his name in loud voices, chanting, “OJ fu Freetown; OJ fu Freetown.”
As Elrington, a first-time political aspirant, walked from behind the counting area, he was swept up in the embrace of a throng of his youthful supporters. Within minutes, he was beaming into the lights of television cameras as he made remarks about his victory and the convention he had just won, sending the woman he has successfully challenged, Senator and Minister Dr. Carla Barnett, into political retirement.
Dr. Barnett, whose appeal was to the more mature voters of the constituency, picked up 470 votes, compared to Elrington’s 670.
The third candidate, Fredy Cantillano, who appeared to have been an intruder in the main fight between Barnett and Elrington, picked up 53 votes.
According to the polling report issued by the UDP, a total of 1,171 voters cast ballots in the convention, but 18 of those ballots were rejected.
Before Elrington, who is the son of the attorney Hubert Elrington, a former UDP Minister, was sworn in by UDP Chairman, Alberto August, he gave his first media interview as the UDP Freetown standard bearer. (Hubert Elrington was the area representative for Lake Independence and a Cabinet Minister in the UDP’s Dr. Manuel Esquivel governments, from 1984-1989 and from 1993-1998.)
“The people of Freetown have spoken. The work for the people of Freetown has just begun,” Elrington offered above the chants of his supporters; “we love Freetown and we will work tirelessly.”
Elrington was asked how he hopes to take on the People’s United Party Francis Fonseca, who has won Freetown in four consecutive general elections, beginning in 2003.
Elrington said he used to run track as a sprinter, and so he will apply what he has learned from that, by “keeping eyes on your own race.”
It was pointed out to Elrington that the UDP has not won in Freetown for about 30 years, and so, is it realistic for his supporters to actually think that he can win.
“This is the first time that there has been a convention in Freetown. It’s not about me; it’s about the people of Freetown. The people will deliver Freetown,” Elrington replied.
Elrington praised his campaign manager, the businessman and president of the Senate, Lee Mark Chang. He also had high praise for UDP Deputy Leader, Hon. Patrick Faber.
Elrington’s victory is another plus for DPM Faber, who is expected to be supported in turn by the Freetown delegates in the upcoming UDP leadership convention.
Last week both Faber and the Belmopan area representative, Hon. John Saldivar, were at the Port Loyola convention supporting the former UDP City Councilor Philip Willoughby, who defeated Attorney General Michael Peyrefitte, who had the support of Prime Minister Dean Barrow.
It appears Dr. Barnett’s defeat is another defeat for Prime Minister Barrow, whose political fortunes appear to be on the decline, given the results of the two conventions in Belize City so far.
In the November 2015 general election, Fonseca defeated Dr. Barnett by over 400 votes.
UDP Deputy Leader Faber is hopeful that Elrington will be able to wrestle away the Freetown seat from Fonseca and “bring a fourth term to the UDP.”
Faber said that OJ won because he has a lot of youthful energy on his side.
Faber said that while Dr. Barnett lost, she still sits in Cabinet and that the UDP will do all it can to attract women in positions of influence to the UDP.