Posted. June 23, 2016. 9:56 a.m. CST.
By BBN Staff: “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.” That’s the way it goes. And in Belize, the government of the day has near absolute power.
The previous People’s United Party (PUP) government served two terms in 10 years and that power caused it to splinter and implode. They are still trying to gather the pieces and regroup.
The current United Democratic Party (UDP) government is serving its third term in eight years and is already starting to show signs of cracks in the foundation, even if they would like to give the impression that all is well within the party. The recent Deputy Leadership convention that Education Minister Patrick Faber won has caused a crack, if only slightly, in the party.
On one side of that crack is the Faber camp and on the other side, the camp of his losing opponent National Security Minister John Saldivar, which included the majority of Cabinet ministers. And over time, like all cracks do, it will grow until there is a break.
Party Leader Dean Barrow has no doubt done his part to quiet the whispers of dissent within the party but he is on his way out and with his looming retirement, his absence will create a void. Barrow has been a rock for his party and under his rule the UDP has been the exemplary embodiment of a unified front, at least publicly. Barrow has done a good job of keeping his party’s dirty laundry private.
But following the Deputy Leadership convention even he was not able to disguise the bitterness that was clearly evident between the two contesting factions. It was a rare glimpse. And when Barrow is gone, and the party’s leadership is up in the air, there is no telling how much bigger the rivalry is going to get.
Saldivar has even acknowledged to the media that he still intends to seek the party’s leadership in 2020. Faber, however, believes he is the next in line to inherit the party. And while Faber confirmed there was tension following his victory at the Deputy Leadership convention; Saldivar has claimed no knowledge about it.
Again, it was a rare case of party colleagues telling different tales. Faber acknowledged that a meeting of Cabinet ministers took place at Sldivar’s house, where it is alleged that a list of ultimatums were crafted to present to Barrow, including a request that Faber not be appointed as Deputy Prime Minister. Faber admitted that the road to healing the party would not be as easy as he had hoped it would be.
Saldivar’s response to those comments: What meeting? He still hasn’t acknowledged that any such meeting took place. In the wake of the convention, UDP committee members who voted as delegates in the Deputy Leadership convention came forward saying they had been fired because their area representatives who supported Saldivar believe that they voted for Faber.
And if Cabinet ministers can maliciously turn on their own people based on that kind of assumption, it is only a matter of time before that kind of punishment-politics and political victimization cause the party an even greater defeat. When the PUP lost public support in 2008, they were demolished at the polls. The PUP had already been showing signs of dissent even before that 2008 loss and after the defeat it got down-right ugly for the party.
And if the recent tension within the UDP is any sign of what’s to come, then things are likely to get bumpy for that party before they get any smoother. Transitioning from one era in history to another is never easy, especially when power, glory and egos are all on the line.
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