October 28, 2015
By Richard Harrison
General elections will be held in Belize on November 4, 2015; only 7 days away.
Since Independence, no political party or prime minister has won or lost three general elections in a row.
Belize politics is a winner takes all game…..the one with a simple majority of the 31 elected area representatives forms government, and thus controls the economy of the country.
Belizeans generally, and Belize opposition politicians in particular, had taken for granted that a political party in power for two terms would have alienated too many voters to be elected to a third term. In other words, the maximum two-term government was a given….and all the opposition had to do was to wait out its term in opposition and be swept into government amid mass dissatisfaction with the government in power….not necessarily mass support for their political and development agenda.
This dissatisfaction would be expressed in the form of highly motivated opposition loyalists coming out in mass to vote….and sufficient traditional supporters of the party in government either voting against their party, or staying away from the polls….resulting in a win for the opposition.
Life for the loyalist PUP’s has been hard for the past 8 years of UDP rule….and getting harder….as they watch the UDP loyalists pile high in abundance….taking all the bloated, untendered government contracts…scholarships…government and statutory bodies lucrative job placements….land grants….mortgage and student loan write-offs….cash and food grants….and all and sundry….living high off the hog.
The ruling UDP, it seems, is doing everything to lose the upcoming elections….their bulldogs that appeared on the streets and on every media, in the three previous elections this year, are very quiet this time around.
They have gotten help from Providence in the way of massive flooding and disaster across the country, but especially in their stronghold of Belize City. “Floods are good, they show where drains should go”, said one of their senior, unelected Ministers.
The Prime Minister has even given a farewell speech of sorts on public media….those close to him making similar statements of farewell on social media.
Like a man on his death bed, in these final hours he called in his “enemies” in the battle for Belize Telemedia Ltd and Belize Electricity Limited, begging pardon and making attractive reparations….including accommodation agreements of the kind made by the previous PUP administration, in similar secrecy….and signed by persons perhaps not legally authorized to do so, obviously seeking to ensure that legal battles, and gains therefrom, are protracted well into the future.
Last week specific instructions were given to the police to cease and desist from checkpoints across the country, allowing all and sundry free right-of-passage. Loaded trucks and vans filled with unknown cargo could be seen making their runs at all hours….even an airplane was landed and abandoned, with no trace of cargo or occupants. A bag of passports and travel documents was discovered in the hands of known UDP party operatives, with no consequences.
Rats and snakes appeared in a major hospital….even as equipment and vehicles were reported “stolen” from other Ministry of Health properties….and a massive over-spending on medical supplies was ongoing, way over and above the budgeted amounts….a drowning man clutching at the last straws.
There are claims that they have paid significant sums to PUP candidates and past candidates to withdraw their support for the PUP, or to openly support their cause. Many PUP die-hard families are no longer fully united behind their party, because members of their families have been courted and lured away with gifts and other “benefits”.
Their foreign minister sent a “strong statement” of protest to the Guatemalan’s in the wake of the Sarstoon disaster, only to get a slap in the face in return. He later said that Belizeans do not consider the Guatemalan saber-rattling a serious issue….that his job was about keeping the peace…but he did not say at what cost to the territorial integrity of Belize.
The UDP produced a manifesto that was 90% celebrating what they claim to have achieved over the past 8 years, and 10% about their “plans for the future”…..no long-term development vision.
This is as if the head have gotten sick of the body….and chopped itself off.
YET….the body is still wriggling, and there are UDP’s who love the luxury, easy life enough….and have enough ill-gotten gains, and hands still deep in the public cookie jar, to carry on through to election day….with victory in mind. In some cases, they are paying everyone willing to wear their colors to campaign for these weeks leading up to elections….obviously still very hungry for another win.
The opposition PUP seems to have managed to raise financial support, much more than in the three previous elections this year. They have matched the UDP in street color and in bringing out the crowds to their events. They have managed to unify most of the dissenting fractions, or so it appears on the surface. Most of their investigations, disclosures of corruption and “campaigning” is being done by supporters outside the core of the party….mostly whom have been hurt by the UDP and are hungry for any change.
They are still struggling with limited organization and coordination….and have not been helped by an obviously hashed-up manifesto with no convincing and motivating long-term vision….some divisions are obviously better financed than others, as was seen in the 2012 elections that many believe they could have won.
Both parties campaign has been mostly negative, slandering the other side instead of speaking to and engaging the public with their development plans for Belize. This says a whole lot about what each of them think about their own plans for development.
These general elections are thus not so much about development….or which party is better suited to govern Belize through these challenging times…..it is more about who is more or least offensive to the electorate….about who is more hungry to win…..and the 8-year incumbent is deep in defensive territory.
BUT….the Father of the Nation, Hon. George C. Price, used to always say that “elections are won on election day”…..that the machinery has to be in place, well oiled and fine tuned.
SO….these elections will be won on election day….who has the better machinery and the bigger budget, especially in the marginal seats, will win.
My calculations are that the incumbents currently have advantage in 12 seats, while the challenger has advantage in 10 seats…..with 9 marginal seats that can go either way on election day. The new party….Belize Progressive Party, can have power-determining effects in marginal seats.
This is the way I see things on this October 28, 2015…..from this vantage point, under the bus.
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.
The views expressed in this article are those of the writer and not necessarily those of the Belize Media Group.
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