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Proportional representation: Let’s change the system

Posted: Tuesday, October 10, 2017. 1:27 pm CST.


By Charles Leslie Jr: I am sure you will agree, that more Belizeans are disempowered and disenfranchised today than at any other time in post-Independent Belize.


This SYSTEM is not working.


In the past 10 years alone, Belize has seen record high rates of: crime, corruption, poverty, unemployment, debt slavery, gentrification (lost of patrimony), family deterioration, child abuse, child disappearance, substance abuse, human trafficking, a corrupted and debased type of spirituality…


…an expedited break down of our social structure and value-system.


Our young people – our greatest national asset and resource – are being pushed to live pointless, self-destructive lives based on the gratification of their lowest impulses.


Well, it turns out, that we can dramatically change Belize for the better, where we can all see more positive benefits within one election cycle.


We can have a SYSTEM that can easily, and equitably, liberate Belizeans: socially, economically, culturally and spiritually.


However, for us, as Belizeans, to have such a SYSTEM we must focus our energy also on the dysfunctional SYSTEM, and not only on the corrupt, greedy politicians that it produces and who maintains this perilous SYSTEM because it benefits them and their cronies at the cost of the vast majority of Belizeans.


The current SYSTEM gives politicians in office God-like powers. They are immune from the law. They now carry out acts of corruption, and they abuse the people and the people’s resources with complete impunity, and without regret or remorse…


…there is a complete lack of compassion.


Most of us ask ourselves every day: “How is it that we seem to get the most greedy and corrupt politicians in the House of Representative to lead our country? Why is it that only two political parties dominated our very existence? Where are all the great Belizeans who could truly lead us out of this abyss?”


The answer is right in front of us.


“So, what is this SYSTEM you are talking about?”


Every single Belizean should demand Proportional Representation (PR), NOW!


The current SYSTEM to elect those who represent us is called the First Past The Post SYSTEM, or Winner Takes All SYSTEM.



What is First Past The Post?


In Belize’s General Election the first-past-the-post system is used.

The country is divided into 31 constituencies, each with one Member in the House of Representatives.

People vote for who they want to represent them as their Area Representative to sit in the Belize Parliament in Belmopan.

The winning AR then has a “seat” in the House of Representatives – if one political party manages to obtain 16 seats then they have an overall majority and are seen as the winner…

…in Belize, they actually believe they become Gods, and the SYSTEM as it is, basically give them the power to act like it, too.


What is Proportional Representation?


Proportional Representation (PR) is an electoral system in which the distribution of seats corresponds closely with the proportion of the total votes cast for each party.

For example, if a party gained 40 percent of the total votes, a perfectly proportional system would allow them to gain 40 percent of the seats.

Example: why is it that the Belize Progressive Party, for example, got 2,336 votes which represent 1.65% of the total amount of voters and those people have no one to represent them?

This is because, under the FPTP voting SYSTEM, established parties have an unfair advantage over smaller ones.

And because Belize started out with an FPTP SYSTEM, it programmed Belizeans, from the get-go, that there was no value in voting for smaller parties or independents, even if those smaller parties or independents had significantly better policies.

The FPTP SYSTEM is what made it easy for special interests, such as Ashcroft, to literally hijack our entire economy, for it was easier to buy, own and control two political parties he knew that would dominate Belize, and thus giving him the power, through those two political parties, to dominate our economy.


If we had a PR system, that would have been significantly harder for Ashcroft to accomplish.

This can apply to just about every disastrous and detrimental policy that has ever been made by the two major political parties over the past 36 years.

With a PR system, there would have been more than two political parties in the HoR, and policies would not have been that easy to ram through…

…since, the Belizean people would have had the choice to eradicate the politicians from the HoR who were not looking out for their best interests, instead of being bullied and trampled by them…

…PR is better able to produce a truly representative legislature.


Belize faces deep societal divisions, a PR SYSTEM is needed now, more than ever, so as to have inclusion of all significant groups in the legislature for democratic consolidation.


The lack of such an inclusive SYSTEM has shown to have catastrophic results on every aspect of our society.


For Belize to succeed we must embrace having both minorities and majorities having a stake in developing our political and economic systems.


Here are more benefits of a PR SYSTEM:


  • Faithfully translate votes cast into seats won, and thus avoid some of the more destabilizing and ‘unfair’ results thrown up by plurality/majority electoral systems. ‘Seat bonuses’ for the larger parties are minimized, and small parties can have their voice heard in the legislature.
  • Encourage or require the formation of political parties or groups of like-minded candidates to put forward lists. This may clarify policy, ideology, or leadership differences within society, especially when, as in Timor-Leste at independence, there is no established party system.
  • Give rise to very few wasted votes. When thresholds are low, almost all votes cast in PR elections go towards electing a candidate of choice. This increases the voters’ perception that it is worth making the trip to the polling booth at election time, as they can be more confident that their vote will make a difference to the election outcome, however small.
  • Facilitate minority parties’ access to representation. Unless the threshold is unduly high, or the district magnitude is unusually low, then any political party with even a small percentage of the vote can gain representation in the legislature. This fulfills the principle of inclusion, which can be crucial to stability in divided societies and has benefits for decision making in established democracies, such as achieving a more balanced representation of minorities in decision-making bodies and providing role models of minorities as elected representatives.
  • Encourage parties to campaign beyond the districts in which they are strong or where the results are expected to be close. The incentive under PR systems is to maximize the overall vote regardless of where those votes might come from. Every vote, even from areas where a party is electorally weak, goes towards gaining another seat.
  • Restrict the growth of ‘regional fiefdoms’. Because PR systems reward minority parties with a minority of the seats, they are less likely to lead to situations where a single party holds all the seats in a given constituency. This can be particularly important to minorities in a district which may not have significant regional concentrations or alternative points of access to power.
  • Lead to greater continuity and stability of policy. The West European experience suggests that parliamentary PR systems score better with regard to governmental longevity, voter participation, and economic performance.
    • The rationale behind this claim is that regular switches in government between two ideologically polarized parties, as can happen in FPTP systems, makes long-term economic planning more difficult, while broad PR coalition governments help engender a stability and coherence in decision making which allow for national development.
    • [This encapsulates the utter, catastrophic results of failed economic and social policies of the PUP and UDP over the past 36 years]
  • Make power-sharing between parties and interest groups more visible. In many new democracies, power-sharing between the numerical majority of the population who hold political power and a small minority who hold economic power is an unavoidable reality. Where the numerical majority dominates the legislature and a minority sees its interests expressed in the control of the economic sphere, negotiations between different power blocks are less visible, less transparent, and less accountable (e.g. in Zimbabwe during its first 20 years of independence). It has been argued that PR, by including all interests in the legislature, offers a better hope that decisions will be taken in the public eye and by a more inclusive cross-section of the society.


There are many variations of a PR SYSTEM. Therefore, I will not spend any time pointing out which one would fit Belize, for I believe that a Constitutional Reform, where this is a major factor, should be discussed on a national and international level (so as to include Belizeans in the diaspora).


And this is significantly easier to do today with the ease of access to the internet.


“Continuous empowerment of the Belizean people should be the ultimate goal for any political party.”


My fellow Belizeans, this may sound a bit outlandish and a bit unrealistic, however, if we want change in Belize, with a SYSTEM that benefits all of us, you, we, are going to have to teach the guardians of this FAILED, FPTP, bi-partisan SYSTEM, a serious lesson…


…and that lesson can happen on election day…spoil your ballot in protest


…and I am personally calling on the many Belizeans out there who are just, completely sick and tired of this crap, to put your names on the ballot…don’t worry about not having money for a campaign, just put your name on the ballot, and the Belizean people, if you really want change, vote for those independents or alternative party members.


It is not about getting rid of the PUP or UDP, it is about changing the SYSTEM, where ALL Belizeans are empowered, not only PUPs then UDPs, then PUPs…a cycle that has spiraled us down into the pits of Dante’s Inferno.


It is about demanding a SYSTEM that will allow the best Belizeans, whether they are a PUP, UDP, BPP, independent, no P, to lead and develop this country.


When we have a multitude of different leaders, representing more and more segments of our society in the House of Representatives, then Belize will be on the road to realizing its destiny as an example to follow.


And then, and only then, will you, the Belizean people, actually have the opportunity to vote for the PERSON and not the party.


The only SYSTEM that will give us that dream is PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION.


Let us never forget this: The politicians in power and those waiting for their turn in this cycle of bipartisan madness, knows exactly what needs to be done, however, this SYSTEM is too sweet…it benefits them too much for them to ever change it…and they will never change it.


Some recommended YouTube videos to watch:


The views expressed in this article are those of the writer and not necessarily those of Breaking Belize News.

Charles Leslie Jr.  is the Chairman of the Belize Unity Alliance and the former independent Chairman of Placencia Village (2010 – 2013). He holds an Associates degree in business, accounting and economics and has over 20 years business experience.


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