Political aspirant for Lake I, the People’s United Party’s Yolanda Schakron, went to the Supreme Court today, Thursday, requesting leave to file an election petition challenging the legitimacy of Mark King’s United Democratic Party victory in the Lake Independence electoral division.
King told Amandala this afternoon that he has no knowledge of the claim, but that in his view it really and truly has nothing much to do with him, because Schakron’s candidacy was denied by the Elections and Boundaries Commission—not by him, Mark King.
“I have already been sworn in. That makes me a legitimate representative,” added King.
Attorney Lisa Shoman, a PUP executive member who is the attorney on record for Schakron, told Amandala that the election petition requires preliminary leave, and if the court agrees to hear the matter, a Supreme Court judge would act as election judge.
The claimants in the case are Yolanda Schakron and Whylma White Munnings, one of Schakron’s nominees, against the respondents: Mark King, the Attorney General of Belize, and Noreen Fairweather, the Returning Officer who refused Schakron’s candidacy based on a complaint that she is disqualified to hold office due to her dual Belize-US citizenship.
The claimants filed affidavits in support of their application, asking the court to determine the validity of the general election on March 7, in respect of the Lake I electoral division.
A statement from the People’s United Party (PUP) today said, “Attorneys for Mrs. Schakron maintain that the determination as to whether she was disqualified to be elected as a member of the House of Representatives could only have been made by an Election judge of the Supreme Court to whom is expressly and exclusively entrusted the power to make such determinations.”
In a landmark ruling on Friday afternoon, February 17, 2012, which was Nomination Day for general election candidates, Supreme Court Justice Oswell Legall refused Schakron’s application seeking an injunction against Fairweather to stop her from rejecting Schakron’s nomination on the basis of her dual nationality.
In his ruling, Legall had said, referring to the election rules, that “it seems that the intent of that phrase has to relate to Section 57 and 58 of the Constitution.”
The Returning Officer, Noreen Fairweather, exercised her power under the rules, the judge said.
“In my view, the Returning Officer in carrying out duties under 3.1 [the election rules] is entitled to consider 58.1.a. of the Constitution [which bars dual citizens] in deciding whether the applicant for nomination is a duly qualified candidate.”
The PUP contends, nonetheless, that Schakron “was wrongfully disqualified as a candidate…” and “voters of the Lake Independence Division were, therefore, unlawfully deprived of an opportunity to vote for and elect Mrs. Schakron as their member of House of Representatives.”
King pointed out, in response to Schakron’s claim filed today, “I think that she did go to court and lost the case and after that, she endorsed her own brother…”
“I think it is too much reinventing a wheel she [Schakron] has broken already,” King said of Schakron’s new court case.
Schakron endorsed Martin Galvez, who ran as the PUP Lake I candidate and lost to King by 172 votes in the March 7 general election race.
A third candidate in the Lake I race, Carlos Diaz, ran third with 223 votes. Diaz was the PUP Lake I candidate in the 1984, 1989, and 1993 elections. He lost to the UDP’s Hubert Elrington in 1984 and 1993, but defeated Elrington in 1989.
If Schakron succeeds with her petition, though, she could force an unprecedented by-election in Lake I.
Asked how he feels of this possibility, King said that it would first be subject to the court’s decision, or whether they even agree Schakron has a case, but if they do and she is successful in court, said King, he has no problem running again in a by-election.
The PUP also said today that they are challenging more of the UDP seats, particularly Cayo Central and Cayo North East. The PUP also said that they may file other petitions, but they have not disclosed any details to date.
Whereas Prime Minister Dean Barrow has told us he does not think anything will come out of these electoral petitions—as historically, they have never succeeded—a victory in any two divisional petitions could topple the United Democratic Party’s very slim majority in the House, and swing the nation’s rulership back into the PUP’s hands.
“They are wasting their time,” said Barrow.