Tuesday, February 3, 2015. AARON HUMES Reporting: The countdown to municipal elections slated for March 4, 2015 is on and the Elections and Boundaries Department which is in charge of overseeing the process to a smooth, free and fair election met with representatives of political parties large and small in Belize City today.
Chief Elections Officer Josephine Tamai said that it was important for the Department to get the input and cooperation of the political parties and public officers who will oversee and participate in the election on important issues ranging from care of ballots to the all-important ban on campaigning in the 100-yard line surrounding all polling stations.
Those stations are under the care of presiding officers who report to the Returning Officer for each municipality and they can order those violating the rule to leave.
The presiding officer, agents for parties and candidates and police are to be in charge of the ballot boxes once sealed and brought to the counting station.
United Democratic Party (UDP) Chairman Alberto August, whose party is defending the Belize City and Belmopan City Councils and Corozal, San Pedro, San Ignacio/Santa Elena and Benque Viejo del Carmen Town Councils, and People’s United Party (PUP) first-time Mayoral candidate in Belize City Yolanda Schakron both say they are satisfied with the Department’s management so far.
Political election theory in Belize holds that the governing party almost always loses the municipal elections held within a year or so of the end of its current term.
The UDP is seeking to buck that trend in this year’s municipal elections, and so it will leave nothing to chance. Party Chairman August defended the party’s showing on the ground, which lead to accusations of bullying and campaigning in the 100-yard line around polling stations as seen in the recent Cayo North by-election, as evidence of the party’s popular appeal and says the other side should try to do the same.
August, a former chair of the Election and Boundaries Commission, also told us he does not see the need for additional polling stations as voters are not experiencing major delays at the stations even in the last-minute rush before polls close at six.
Meanwhile the People’s National Party’s (PNP) Political Leader and candidate for Mayor of Punta Gorda Town, Wil Maheia, raised some issues with regard to the placement of names for Mayoral and Councilor candidates on the ballot.
He claimed the elections laws do not support the current placement of Mayors with their councilor teams which would allow for straight “down-the-line” voting as opposed to separately listing Mayor and Councilor candidates.
Maheia also raised complaints about the inequality of polling stations in his hometown; the St. Peter Claver R.C. School has some 2,000 voters registered in the polling area while the Methodist School only has 800, which raises the need for more polling stations to ease voters’ trips to the polls.
Nominations countrywide are scheduled for next Wednesday, February 11; Belize City residents vote for a Mayor and ten City Councilors, while Belmopan and other municipalities vote for a Mayor and six councilors.
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