Saturday, October 3rd 2015.By Richard Harrison:Belize law gives the Prime Minister full discretion to call general elections at any time, with only 30 days notice.
The Father of the Nation, Hon. George C. Price, used to say, “do not write a law while in government that you cannot live with while in opposition”.
The People’s United Party (PUP) and the United Democratic Party (UDP) have both been in government 17 years each since Belize’s Independence 34 years ago. Yet, none of them have seen it fit to amend this law.
The National Constitution requires for general elections to be held, at maximum, every five years.
Both the PUP and UDP Prime Ministers have used their discretion to call elections long before the five year period, as in the current scenario the Prime Minister has called elections only 3 years and 7 months into his five-year term.
The reason they usually give is that their manifesto has been completed and that they need a new mandate from the people. However, it has turned out that these snap elections are usually called when there is too much agitation and political or economic crisis in the under-current of the affairs of the nation, and which is expected to mature and rupture in the near future, but after the incumbents’ expected win at the polls.
Even the dull of conscience must realize that this law gives unfair advantage to the incumbent to keep holding on to power….more favorable to the creation of demagogic leaders than to democratic ones.
The incumbent has all the resources of government at its disposal, and because of Belize’s special-interest economy, where most of the “successful” private sector depends on some form of government subsidy, also hold sway over private contributors to electoral contests. Since election results are to great extent influenced by resources, material and otherwise, this system presents to the people an unfair, unbalanced and unsophisticated platform upon which to base their democratic free will of choice.
These “surprise” elections do not allow time for the political parties to develop a MANIFESTO of how they plan to develop the country, much less allow them to consult sufficiently with the public and get them to make contributions to and identify with the final plans.
What the country gets then, are rapid ejaculations of fly-by-night, hashed-up plans that serve the interests of the political elite and their close contacts whom can influence their plans….mostly based on rallying emotions and irrational sentiments, and pandering to short-term interests….while the “unsophisticated” public just has to swallow.
Most Belizean’s have come to think of MANIFESTO’s as just a piece of paper with no meaning, because none of the political parties really use them as their blue-print for the national budgets after they get into power.
MANIFESTO’s should not only say WHAT they plan to do, but also HOW they plan to achieve it.
Most of the government’s since Independence have been elected based on give-away, dependency-creating schemes, without any explanation of how they will be paid for. Then the people wonder why the country is drowning in debt, with not much to show for it.
They usually get into government and spend the most of the national budget on their corruption-riddled pet projects that have nothing to do with their manifesto. This is very sad really, because the people should want to have a checklist of things which it can use to gauge its elected government’s performance.
After all, elected government’s in democratic states should serve the interests of ALL the people, guided first by the National Constitution, the laws of Belize and by their MANIFESTO….which all need to be continuously developed to suit the times…not remain stuck in colonial gear for the rest of eternity.
In fact, many of the laws in Belize can be proven UNCONSTITUTIONAL, and they ALL need comprehensive review and amendment to ensure that they align with the letter and spirit of our NATIONAL CONSTITUTION.
A democratic state, as Belize is declared in its NATIONAL CONSTITUTION, MUST allow participation of ALL the people in making the plans for their government’s, and in contributing to, monitoring and evaluating the entire budgeting and execution process.
For the reasons discussed above, ALL the PEOPLE of Belize must condemn these snap 30-day elections notices as undemocratic and unconstitutional….and require that this law be amended within the first 100 days of the next elected government.
General elections should be held every 4 years, on a specific day of the year, like perhaps the first Sunday of November, since elections already cost too much and should not cost the country, in addition, an entire day of production.
Early November is also the tail end of the “slow season” of the tourism-based economy that Belize has created, such that the sentiments of the least privileged among us will be duly registered in the election results….as is right and just.
The views expressed in this article are those of the writer and not necessarily those of the Belize Media Group.
This article was written by Richard Harrison, Belizean investor in production and services businesses in Belize. He holds a Masters in Business Administration degree from Lancaster University.
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