Why some constituencies in Belize don’t get fair representation
Saturday, October 10th 2015. BMG: With elections fast approaching political aspirants are in a frenzied scramble to try to secure their seats. Some, of course, need to work harder than others in constituencies that are considered ‘battle-grounds’.
Some constituencies, however, in terms of the voting populace are double the size of others, yet get only one area representative with responsibilities for twice the amount of people than representatives in other constituencies. This happens to be the case, mainly in rural constituencies.
Belize City, has the highest concentration of constituencies. The old capital comprises 10 of the 31 seats in the House of Representatives and the largest voting constituency in Belize City is Lake Independence with 6,305 voters but the average numbers of voters per constituency in Belize City is 4,403.
In rural constituencies outside of Belize City, however, the average number of voters per constituency is 7,264. That’s almost double the size of the average Belize City constituency. The largest constituency in the country is Belmopan with 9,253 voters, whereas the smallest constituency is Fort George with 3,084 voters. That’s a three time difference, yet both constituencies hold the same amount of weight in the National Assembly.
The differences, however, have not gone unnoticed and most recently, before the third party amalgamation yielded the Belize Progressive Party (BPP), the Vision Inspired by the People (VIP) had written to the Elections and Boundaries Department requesting that there be a re-districting of constituencies to ensure fairer representation in the House.
In that letter written in March, the VIP said the current imbalance is a violation against Section 90(1) (a) of the Belize Constitution which states that “each electoral division shall have as nearly as may be an equal number of persons eligible to vote.”
There was a redistricting done in 1961 when the country increased its legislators from nine to 18. In 1984 it added Caribbean Shores, Lake Independence, Queens Square, Port Loyola, Cayo Central, Cayo West, Corozal Bay, Orange Walk Central, Orange Walk East, Corozal South East and Corozal South West but added none to the districts of Stann Creek and Toledo, who only have a combined four seats in the National Assembly but combine for a total of 29,768 voters. In 1993 Belize Rural Central was created and in 2008 Belmopan and Cayo North East were created, but still no seats were added in the southern districts.
Each of the four constituencies in the southern districts account for an average number of 7,441 voters per division. Some argue that a redistricting is in order especially in these two districts, that often see the least amount of financial resources allocated to them.
In contrast, hundreds of millions of dollars have been pumped into development in Belize City and in Belmopan yet development and growth in the southern districts have been slow. Statistical Institute of Belize (SIB) support this, indicating that much of the workforce population from the south migrate to the Belize district looking for work. This trend, however, is one that has been consistent under administrations of both the United Democratic Party (UDP) and the People’s United Party (PUP).
Those southern districts have seen a 24 percent increase in registered voters since the 2008 general elections and with a continuous influx of immigrants to Belize, the region’s country with the largest immigrant growth over the last few years, according to a recent OAS report, that trend is likely to continue. The rest of constituencies have grown about 25 percent over the same course of time from the 2008 general elections.
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