In Belize and most democratic countries in the world, political parties have a constitution to regulate the way they do business. One of the provisions in this constitution deal with how their candidates are selected to represent the party in elections.
In most party constitutions the methods that they choose is either a Convention through voting by the members of the party or an Endorsement by the executive branch. When an election is pending the political party will inform all of their members about the vacancy or vacancies.
Any member of the political party who is in good standing, can submit his or her application to the Credentials Committee stating that he or she would like to become a candidate for the upcoming election. This committee is vested with the power to screen the members who applied and see if they qualify to be a candidate to represent the party.
If the committee approves the member’s application, then he or she will be sent a letter indicating such. If it is a disapproval, the member will also be sent a letter and he or she can appeal the decision of the Credentials Committee to the party Executive Committee if that option is given in the party constitution.
However, if there is no such option the person will not be able to run for office for his party. After all the candidates’ eligibilities to become candidates have been processed, the Executive Committee of the party, will agree and set a day for the Party Convention. Knowing the date of the convention is very important for all candidates so that they could begin preparing for their campaigns. If an election is pending and no member of the party submit his or her application to become a candidate for that election, then the Party Leader will try his or her best to find a candidate.
The Party Leader sometimes will find this candidate when the elections are near and have no time to conduct a Convention. This is when he will decide to do an Endorsement of a candidate with the approval of the Party Executive Committee. This is a procedure that most party members see as fair and have no problems with.
Years ago when I was a Police Officer living in Belize, I use to attend political party conventions for both the United Democratic Party (UDP) and the People’s United Party (PUP). During those days PUP was so dominant and powerful that nobody wanted to run for the UDP so they use to have a lot of endorsements. The PUP conventions were held with party cards mostly. If the members did not have a party card, they could not vote in the conventions. When their leader at the time the Late George Cadle Price wanted a specific candidate to win, he would give his favorite candidate more party cards than his opponent. This happened for a long time and many of the candidates who the people wanted to run lost their conventions.
I remember Charles Martinez who was a former Representative from Toledo District becoming a victim of this scam and he lost to Alejandro Vernon. I also saw Simeon Joseph Sr. Losing like this to Alan Arthurs in a convention that was held at Tropic Zone in Dangriga Town. After that convention, many of the PUP supporters were so angry with their party that they pledged to vote for the UDP candidate at the time Paul Guerrero.
When the day of the election came, Paul Guerrero defeated Alan Arthurs by over 300 votes and that put an end to his political career. In most cases when endorsements are used by the Leader of a political party leader in Belize it is because of favoritism. This is not democratic and is bad for party morale and support.
The members of the parties have and continue to complain about this action taken by their leaders but their complaints always fall on deaf ears. Endorsements are there to be used only when one candidate submitted his or her name for an office. Not when several members of the party have an interest to run for that office and the leader choose to tell the executive committee not to accept applications and endorse the candidate of his choice.
In the last few weeks both the United Democratic Party and the People’s United Party have endorsed some candidates. The UDP endorsed Tracey Taegar Panton in Albert division and Carla Barnett in Freetown. They had other candidates who withdrew their candidacies to endorse Ms. Taegar-Panton as the Standard Bearer for her party.
The same was said for Ms. Carla Barnett in Freetown Division. The PUP endorsed Major Lloyd Jones in Belize Rural North and now planning to endorse Anthony Sabal in Dangriga. Some members of the People’s United Party who live in the Belize Rural North Constituency are complaining that their leader Francis Fonseca abused his power in doing that endorsement. Let us wait and see if they are going to endorse Anthony Sabal, to replace Ivan Ramos and let him become their candidate for Dangriga.
If the endorsement goes through, we will await to see the response from the Dangriga Representative Ivan Ramos and the PUP people who reside in that constituency. There will be some members of the political parties who will say, that the way they select their party candidates should be nobody’s business but them. I totally disagree with that line of thinking because we live in democratic country and it should always be the people who should have the right to choose their party’s Representatives.
When political parties only have a few people in their party, deciding who should be their candidates for elected office that is dangerous for our country. These people if elected, will manage the affairs of our country. Then, we run the risk of having an oligarchy, autocracy and a dictatorship instead of a democracy.
Wellington C. Ramos
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