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One final look at General Elections

Wednesday, November 25th 2015. BMG: Now that the dust has cleared and the political gladiators have celebrated their triumphs and mourned their defeats the country is finally returning to a state of normalcy and business as usual after historic year of politics in Belize, Nomination day in Belizewhich saw many unprecedented events.

Four elections in one year: two by-elections, one municipal and general elections; the United Democratic Party (UDP) and Prime Minister Dean Barrow becoming the first three-consecutive-term government and Prime Minister; the People’s United Party (PUP) becoming the first party to suffer three consecutive general election defeats; the Belize Progressive Party (BPP) becoming the first alternative option to put forth a 25 candidate slate; and the first time 11 women, the most in Belize, entered as candidates in one election.

Voter turnout in the recent general election was an interesting aspect of that election. While there was a 72 percent total voter turnout, turnout seemed lackluster for much of the day. By midday on election day hardly 40 percent of voters had turned out. Of 196,587 registered voters, 142,881 ballots were counted.

Some have suggested election fatigue played a role, with all the previous elections this year, while others have pointed to the fact that voters may be upset with the status quo and refraining from voting.

The UDP won with 71,452 votes representing just over 50 percent of votes cast while the PUP garnered 67,566 votes representing 47.29 percent of all votes cast; the difference: 3,886.

In context of Belize’s population, which is now estimated around 360,000 according to the Statistical Institute of Belize (SIB), the UDP’s 71,452 votes account for 19.84 percent of the country’s population. The PUP’s 67,566 accounts for 18.76 percent.

Of all registered voters, 53,706 did not show up to vote. Now obviously, there needs to be a review of the voters list as many of those on that list are now Nomination day in Belize1deceased or live abroad, but this number represents 14.9 percent of the country’s total population. Again, many seem to have lost faith in the electoral process and think their vote won’t make a difference.

Interestingly, there were many rejected/spoiled ballots. In fact, there was only one constituency of all 31 where there was no rejected ballot: Corozal South West. Every other constituency had no less than 20 spoiled ballots. The highest amount of rejected ballots was in the Belize Rural South constituency with 85 spoiled ballots followed by Cayo West with 84. The average number of spoiled ballots, with the exception of Corozal South West, was 46.

Where voter literacy is concerned Belizeans, and in this case, students nearing the voting age as well as young adults and even older people should be instructed on how to properly vote. Furthermore, there needs to be more programs in the country that emphasize the importance of voting and participating in the democratic process.

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