By Khaila Gentle
BELIZE CITY, Thurs. May 19, 2022
While the Government of Belize’s controversial Trade Licensing Bill was at the forefront of the United Democratic Party’s second press conference for the month, another topic of discussion was this past Sunday’s commencement of the 2022 village council elections. At the press conference, held on Wednesday, UDP leader, Hon. Moses “Shyne” Barrow, addressed the party’s less-than-optimal performance so far in the elections and the People’s United Party’s claim that it won 17 out of a total 21 contested seats and that it split the councils “in the only two villages where the UDP-affiliated [teams] managed to win”.
According to Barrow, however, the UDP managed to secure victories in seven villages (Chan Chen, Caledonia, Carolina, Hopkins, Silk Grass, Sittee River and Double Head Cabbage), and he congratulated all of those purportedly UDP victors on Tuesday and referred to them as “UDP- affiliated slates”.
Of note is that the Double Head Cabbage election was won by an independent slate. And while Hon. Barrow claimed that the independent slate is “UDP-affiliated”, the People’s United Party claimed that the slate is in fact an affiliate of their party in a press release issued on Monday, in which it stated that “the other two villages were won by Independent teams also affiliated with the PUP.”
Nevertheless, the results of this year’s elections have, so far, been less than favorable for the UDP—with the party having claimed only seven out of a total of twenty-one seats on Sunday—but Barrow says that the party is doing well and “holding ground”.
“As a matter of fact, we have held ground. In 2019, when the swing started against us, we won 10 of the 29 villages that were contested this Sunday past, and we have held onto seven of those. So, given the circumstances where we only won five seats in the House of Representatives in 2020, and we lost 65 of the 67 municipal seats last year in 2021, I think that we are off to a great start, and this week we will continue to hold and we will continue to fight,” he stated.
When asked about the low UDP voter turnout as well as the large number of uncontested elections, he suggested that some persons may be reluctant to come out due to a fear of political victimization.
“When you have the instances of people not offering themselves in certain villages, I must confess there is a lot of intimidation and victimization taking place—a lot of fear-mongering and people who feel that it is too early for them to take the lick that they will take if they come out. That is understandable. That is why you have some people running independent,” said Barrow.
According to the newly selected UDP leader, despite the challenges that the party has faced over the past two years, it is doing “extremely well” and the village council results are a testament to that.
“As I said to you a few interviews ago, I made it clear that we are rebuilding. We just selected a new leader. Before that, there was two years of turmoil and a leadership crisis. And in that context we have done extremely well to hold on to seven of the ten that we won in 2019, and we will continue to do better, cause what you don’t talk about is the fact that I’m in every village every day, so no one can say that I am not working hard, the party chairman is not working hard, our caretakers are not working hard,” he said.
Hon. Barrow also urged voters to come out and “send a message”, calling the elections a negotiation tool. He stated that Belizeans, “whether red or blue” are dissatisfied with the government’s performance and also noted that the government “should be embarrassed” that the UDP has not lost further ground but is holding steady.