Posted: Thursday, May 9, 2019. 3:31 pm CST.
The views expressed in this article are those of the writer and not necessarily those of Breaking Belize News.
By: Wellington C. Ramos
BELIZE ELECTION REFERENDUM RESULTS MAY 8TH 2019
In a Referendum Election that was held in Belize on Wednesday the 8th of May 2019, about 65% of the registered voters which is 148,500 voted in the election. The results were YES-53,388 and NO-43,029, out of 96,417 the total votes that were casted. This turnout percentage was even higher than the amount of Guatemalans, that voted on this same issue on April 15th 2018. Only about 26% of Guatemala’s 7.5 million registered voters voted.
Before and after Belize’s independence in 1981, the People’s United Party (PUP) and the United Democratic Party (UDP), were grappling with the question of taking this claim to the ICJ. Eventually, they both decided that this was the best way to resolve this dispute.
Then, last year the PUP leader John Briceno changed his mind from a YES to a NO position after he was pressured by members of his party. As the votes kept coming in last night from the various PUP constituencies that were saying NO, it was clear that the YES vote that the UDP government supported was going to win. These Referendum Elections are based on an agreement that was signed between Belize and Guatemala on December the 8th 2008 to take the Guatemalan claim to Belize to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for a final resolution. Now that both countries have voted yes to take this dispute to the ICJ, they will start preparing their cases to present to the court.
What is not clear after this election is, what were some of the reasons why the Belizean citizens decided to vote YES to go to the ICJ instead of NO given the current circumstances they face after the countries of Great Britain and the Belize have signed the; 1859 Treaty, The Webster Proposals of 1968, The Heads of Agreement 1981, the Maritime Areas Act 1991 and other agreements with Guatemala that will be produced in court.
In all these documents concessions were proposed to Guatemala and in the Maritime Areas Act they were legislated by the Belize National Assembly into law. Luckily for Belize, the Guatemalan Congress rejected the Maritime Areas Act. Some reasons could be; Belizeans agree that this is the best option available to them, they were paid to vote yes, the people who were advocating for the NO vote did not provide them with compelling reasons to vote their way or many Belizean independent minded voters changed the outcome of the election. Many Belizeans citizens are moving away from the two main political parties to become independents.
This ICJ election was very important for Belize because general elections are going to be held in 2020 but can be called this year, if the sitting Prime Minister decides to call it. My gut feeling is that he is going to do it because he has indicated to his party members that he wants to retire from politics. The PUP’s saw the NO vote as their trump card to win the next election but the vote did not turn out their way. Now, they must get prepared to face a general election.
Prior to the ICJ election that was held yesterday, they went to court to seek an Injunction to block the Referendum and they stopped it for the original scheduled date of April the 10th 2019. They also have a case pending in the Belize Court of Appeals, to challenge the constitutionality of the Compromis agreement that was signed between Belize and Guatemala to go to the ICJ. Now, they must decide to continue their court challenge or to discontinue it.
The people of Belize have already voted to go to the ICJ with the Guatemalan dispute. If the election was conducted in a fair and legal manner, the results will be validated and Belize will go to the ICJ as was agreed upon. In the absence of a ruling by the Court of Appeals to favor the PUP, nothing will be able to stop it. The Belize People’s Front (BPF) and other opposition political parties also took a NO position to the ICJ. They are now meeting with each other to see how to move forward after this vote.
The political parties in Belize must not make the mistake and think, that because Belizeans voted YES to go to the ICJ, they will vote for them when the general elections are called. So far many of the predictions that have been made about this ICJ election throughout the country, surprised many political parties and politicians. When it comes to the Guatemalan issue, Belizean citizens take it seriously. They have removed sitting governments from office in the past because of this issue and will not hesitate to do it again. After this election was held, it now seems to me that many Belizeans, are of the opinion that taking this issue to the ICJ is the best option that is available to us. In a democracy the will of the people must always be accepted whether we like it or not. If there are any suffering or consequences to endure from the vote, all of us as citizens will bear them. We should all stand together in the interest of our beloved country Belize.
The ICJ election is gone, now we must come together to assemble all the evidence that will be required to prevail in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to keep our borders, boundaries and maritime areas intact. Our country became independent on September the 21st 1981 with a unanimous vote from the member states of the United Nations. Only Guatemala out of all the countries in the world opposed our independence. It is now our responsibility as citizens of Belize to; protect, preserve and defend our nation. The only way this can happen, is for each and every one of us as Belizean citizens, at home and abroad to commit his or herself to the defense of our beloved nation Belize.
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