By Richard Harrison: Local government elections in 9 of the principal municipalities of Belize are expected to take place in March 2018, and the political season that comes with that has already kicked off.
These elections are important because they will serve like a mid-term litmus test of the UDP third consecutive term in central government, since taking the reins of power in 2008.
Currently, the UDP have control of 8 of these municipalities…and the PUP has only Orange Walk Town.
Unless some major issues cause momentum to change between now and March, it would appear that this 8:1 ratio will remain.
It is a very interesting thing….because the ruling UDP government has attracted so much negative attention with massive corruption disclosures in important ministries…over $100 million in new taxation….with a slow economy and increasing unemployment and cost of living….with what the people consider to be grave mishandling of the Guatemala situation and increasing threat to sovereignty…with infighting for leadership that will succeed PM Dean Barrow, who announced to the Chamber of Commerce and Industry early this year that that would have been his last annual address to them…with massive amounts being paid out to the Ashcroft Alliance and for legal fees to immediate families of the Prime Minister…and one can go on…and on….and on.
YET….the principal opposition PUP has not been able to capitalize…they have not been able to create mass resentment….to change voter sentiment in a significant way.
They seem to be convinced that the people will get fed up of the UDP “hard life” and will vote for them so that they get into government by default…their mouthpieces argue that the people don’t really have any other “viable” choice.
The PUP also seems to be continuing with their “political strategy” that they dont need to win the local governments….because if they would win, they would not get any help from the central government….they would not be able to do the best that they can do…get a bad name…and lose the next general elections as a result. They prefer to wait for the big one!! BUT…..momentum is vital in politics….and the PUP desperately needs to win another one or two local governments to change the momentum of having not won a single election since 2003.
So, they continue to run on a low budget…telling their candidates to fight it out there on their own…keeping their fingers crossed….but the people do not seem convinced. The people see the same old faces of the last 10 years of PUP rule…now with some of their children, family and extended families being pushed into line….just like the UDP’s setting up their children for political power, building up their “kingdoms” and “fiefdoms”….all to serve themselves and the same status quo…not the people of Belize.
The PUP have kicked so many of their traditional supporters to the curb….that they are finding it hard to even get good candidates to represent their party in the slates for these upcoming elections….because people see clearly how ruthless they can be with their own traditional supporters. This naturally makes qualified and viable candidates afraid to step up and offer themselves to serve under the party’s banner.
It seems like there is also some political exhaustion to factor in….the amount of political news and social media bombardment has overwhelmed the people….and they have become confused and numb….there is almost a sense of loss of interest in the air. This always plays into the hands of the incumbent.
BUT….the main thing is the cemented streets and beautiful parks….this massive transformation of public spaces that many find useful every day….this has made a very big impression on the mind of the people…and the people do not worry about how high the national debt has gone…they only know the country “look more beautiful” and that “we feel better about our country”.
There was supposed to be an economic collapse imminent with a possible super bond default….and large payouts to Ashcroft….which presented a real threat to the exchange rate of BZ$2 : US$1….but the PM was successful in kicking that can down the road….and the people do not care that their children and grandchildren will have to pay the bill….they only care that THEY wont have to pay the bill. While the economy remains tight….and the new taxes are taking their toll….the people have adjusted, saying that the beautiful streets and parks have to be paid for….and where else will it come from but from higher taxes? BUT….there has been no collapse….in fact, there has been a sort of calm, since the successful refinancing of the super bond and the subsequent raising of taxes to meet the requirements.
The BNTU has gone into a lull…..even though some of the important demands they made to end their strike has not been implemented….there is still no Commission Against Impunity in Belize (CICIB)….and not much has been heard from Public Accounts Committee….nor from Integrity Commission. How this quiet is converted into votes is anyone’s guess.
The sugar cane farmers remain divided….there is still no youth mobilization for political action….no tourism workers organization…..no organization of small and medium businesses….and the environmental/NGO community has their heads up in the clouds, and love elbow rubbing with the status quo. The opposition, it would appear on the surface, has not made any inroads with these large blocks of voters.
The so-called “independent” or “third” party movements have not been able to gather steam…..although more and more people seem to understand clearly that the real solutions for Belize and Belizeans do not lie in the traditional major political establishments, whom they can tell clearly both work for the same status quo. The letters PUDP is now commonly accepted jargon.
In other words….there has been no real effort to move around the pieces on the chess board….to alter the balance of power.
To summarize….it would appear that the UDP has played excellent defense….while the PUP has played rather poor offense….and they are the only real players on the floor.
All things remaining equal through to March 2018….I predict that the 8:1 ratio will remain.
If this prediction turns out to be true….the UDP may be tempted to call general elections for November 2018, to seek a fresh mandate for whosoever takes over from PM Barrow after he hands over the baton of power shortly after his victory in these municipal elections.
The views expressed in this article are those of the writer and not necessarily those of Breaking Belize News.
This article was written by Richard Harrison, Belizean investor in production and services businesses in Belize. He holds a Master’s in Business Administration degree from Lancaster University.
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