Posted: Monday, March 4, 2019. 4:46 pm CST.
By Aaron Humes: In his third and final term as Prime Minister, the Right Honorable Dean Barrow is the only man who currently knows when the next general elections will be called.
That is because, according to Section 84 of Belize’s Constitution, his advice is what the Governor General relies on to dissolve the National Assembly and schedule a new election.
The section reads that the National Assembly must be dissolved “five years from the date when the two Houses of the former National Assembly first met” unless dissolved sooner by the Governor-General of Belize upon the advice of the prime minister.
Following the 2015 general elections which were called for November fourth, 2015; the first meeting of the current National Assembly took place on Friday, November thirteenth. Five years on would be November thirteenth, 2020. A further provision allows that the election must be called within three months of the dissolution of parliament. Therefore, the latest date for a general election would be February thirteenth, 2021.
Prime Minister Barrow, after twice calling general elections months before the end of his first and second terms, has indicated he prefers to see this one through. He had intended to step down as leader of the United Democratic Party by May of this year after overseeing a final convention process to elect standard bearers and delegates who would then select the next party leader. But in November his Cabinet persuaded him to stay on through the next election, though he would of necessity have to stand down then as he will not run for another term in his constituency of Queen’s Square. The frontrunners for the U.D.P. leadership race are current deputy Prime Minister Patrick Faber and National Security Minister John Saldivar.
The People’s United Party is currently led by Johnny Briceño, leader of the Opposition, in his second term. If re-elected to his seat of Orange Walk Central and the P.U.P. wins the most seats, he would be the first Prime Minister appointed from a non-Belize District constituency.
Barrow, as of today, Monday, has served eleven years and twenty-four days as Prime Minister, the longest tenure since Independence – the late Right Honorable George Price holds the unassailable record of longest-serving national leader of Belize, having first served in 1961 and finally left office in 1993. Barrow has been Queen’s Square representative since December of 1984; if he makes to this December that will be 35 years in the post.
Both the Opposition People’s United Party and ruling United Democratic Party have selected a majority of their candidates for the 31-seat House of Representatives, either through incumbency or conventions. Also expected to participate are several alternative parties: the Belize Progressive Party (BPP) led by Patrick Rogers; Nancy Marin’s Belize People’s Front; and Paul Morgan’s Vision Inspired by the People as well as the Belize Green Independent Party. However, re-districting of electoral constituencies is still pending and this could likely increase the number of constituencies to be fought for. Presently under the 31 seat model, a majority of 16 is needed to form the government; 20 for a two-thirds majority to pass certain legislation, and 23 for a three-quarters majority to amend the Constitution.
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