BELIZE CITY, Mon. July 27, 2020– Back in February, Lord Michael Ashcroft was allowed to join the Belize Peace Movement’s redistricting lawsuit as an interested party. The case is an attempt to remedy the disparity in the number of voters across the 31 electoral divisions in Belize.
Lord Ashcroft has agreed to pay for an expert witness to carry out an assessment of the electoral divisions and compile a report which would be presented to the Elections and Boundaries Department and the Supreme Court of Belize.
This report would confirm whether there is a voter disparity between constituencies and the extent of such a disparity — information which would be of assistance to the Supreme Court as it makes its decision.
This past Friday, Senior Counsel Andrew Marshalleck, the attorney representing Ashcroft, made an application to the court to allow the expert witness to carry out a professional analysis of the constituencies. The Constitution of Belize requires that all 31 constituencies be as equal as possible in the number of constituents they contain to ensure equal voting rights among citizens.
Marshalleck said, “One of the first claims made is for a declaration that the state of the register is such that elections based on those registers can’t be called democratic in that they do not meet basic democratic thresholds. You see, for the vote to be democratic, you need equal voting as far as it is possible.”
In an interview after the hearing on Friday, attorney for the Belize Peace Movement, Arthur Saldivar, said,” Today’s application moves us forward in addressing this problem, and I believe it is a victory for Belize and the democracy in Belize.”
Saldivar said that if the expert witness is allowed, the report that will be compiled will give the parties a full understanding of the electoral landscape in Belize. The Belize Peace Movement’s Bobby Lopez has written UDP leader-elect, Patrick Faber; PUP party leader, John Briceño; and Estevan Perera, the newly appointed chairman of the Election and Boundaries Commission, to stress the importance of the redistricting exercise and the organization’s position.
Lopez said that only the PUP has responded with a commitment to carry out the exercise after the scheduled November 2020 general election if their party wins.
In a December 2019 interview, Attorney General Michael Peyrefitte said that the Government of Belize has no intention of carrying out a redistricting exercise before the November elections.
The case has been adjourned to a date to be announced by Chief Justice Michelle Arana.