By BMG Staff: The United Democratic Party (UDP) is still riding a wave of unprecedented political success in Belize. It made history in November winning three consecutive general elections with its leader Prime Minister Dean Barrow at the helm, who also made history by becoming the first three-consecutive term Prime Minister after Independence.
Under Barrow’s leadership the UDP dethroned the PUP in 2008 with a landslide blowout victory and hasn’t looked back since. The UDP government, though it has seen its share of criticism and scandal over the last few years, has managed to impress many with its focus on infrastructural upgrades and public sector works.
Many would argue the UDP’s success is more a result of the opposition’s own inability to regain composure and stability, however, it remains, the UDP and its leader did what no other party in this country has done. And now, having announced his retirement at the end of this current term, Barrow will hang it up and the UDP will be looking for a new leader.
Mesopotamia area representative Michael Finnegan has also announced his intention to retire at the end of the current term and it is likely that Port Loyola area representative Anthony “Boots” Martinez will also retire at the completion of this current term. This will present an interesting challenge for the UDP heading into the next general election, whenever that is called.
Barrow, Finnegan and Martinez have led the charge for three of the safest seats for the UDP for the better part of the last two decades. Not only will the UDP be looking for a new leader, but it will be looking for strong candidates to fill the void in these constituencies.
Names like Moses “Shyne” Barrow and Denise “Sister B” Barrow have emerged as possible replacements in Mesopotamia and Queen’s Square respectively and both have the blessing of father and brother, Dean Barrow. It is thought, however, that neither make a likely candidate to replace him as leader.
So then, who will that leave? Patrick Faber has publicly declared, on several occasions, his ambitions to be UDP leader. Up to recently Darrell Bradley was thought to have been a strong candidate for next UDP leader, however, his surprising defeat to Kareem Musa in Caribbean Shores has left his political future uncertain. Gaspar Vega hasn’t declared if he has any intention to seek the position once Barrow bows out and that may yet be an option for the three-term Deputy Prime Minister. There is also talk suggesting John Saldivar may be interested in seeking the party’s leadership once that spot becomes vacant.
Luckily, the UDP still has up to five years with Barrow guiding the way to figure out what the next era of the UDP will look like. And with Barrow’s reputation for careful and strategic planning he will most likely try as best as possible to leave the party in as good a position to continue the success it has had under his leadership.
Many questions remain in regards to the UDP’s future after Barrow. Can the UDP win a historic 4th consecutive term or will a power struggle relegate it to the political wilderness like the People’s United Party (PUP) of the last seven years? Could Shyne emerge as a serious contender for the party’s leadership in the next five years? Will any of the likely candidates take the top spot or is there another unlikely candidate yet to emerge?
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