Posted: Wednesday, June 5, 2019. 7:01 am CST.
By BBN Staff: With the referendum on taking Guatemala’s territorial claim to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) finally behind us, the historic event, which will likely be studied and debated for years, has slowly started fading from public attention. Now the focus has shifted to local politics ahead of a pivotal election for each of the major parties. And while the recent referendum was held as a non-partisan national democratic exercise, members of the current government who supported a ‘Yes’ vote as well as the opposition, which supported a ’No’ vote, made it known that their political machineries would approach the referendum in the same manner as a general election.
If the resulting ‘Yes’ vote is any indication of current voter sentiment ahead of the scheduled 2020 general elections, the United Democratic Party (UDP), which has already served an unprecedented three consecutive terms, could look to capitalize and make history by winning a 4th consecutive term. A victory in the next election would be monumental as the party navigates new leadership with the departure of several senior members including Prime Minister Dean Barrow. The UDP cabinet, though marred by waves of scandal and revelations of systemic corruption across government departments throughout its 11-year reign, has withered the political storms while the opposition People’s United Party (PUP) has yet to prove it can win a general election since its last victory in 2005, 14 years ago; a virtual eon in politics.
Minister of Defense, John Saldivar, who has openly expressed his interest in seeking the party’s leadership, caused a stir online recently when he made a post suggesting that the UDP should settle its pending leadership showdown sooner than later with the referendum put to bed. The post was later deleted but it sparked much discussion among party supporters, pundits and critics. PM Barrow has often discussed his departure from politics at the end of this current term but has yet to definitively announce a date or the party’s status on selecting a new leader.
Deputy Prime Minister Patrick Faber is considered a strong favorite to assume the party’s leadership upon Barrow’s exit, however, several others have emerged as possible candidates in what could look to be a tense battle for the UDP’s top spot. Attorney General Michael Peyrefitte has been mentioned as a possible candidate as well having received support from the PM. Foreign Affairs Minister, Wilfred ’Sedi’ Elrington, several weeks ago also threw his name out as possibly seeking to contest for the party’s leadership. One other name has been thrown around as a possible candidate for the party’s leadership but with its share of controversy and critical reception and for obvious reasons; one of Barrow’s top advisors, Mark Espat.
Faber and Saldivar previously squared off against each other in the 2016 conventions for the party’s deputy positions, which was won by Faber seeing him ascend to Deputy Prime Minister. Faber is confident he can secure another convention victory to become the UDP’s next leader, but Saldivar has also expressed his confidence in contesting the position. As a convention date draws nearer it is likely that other names may emerge in the race to assume leadership of the UDP as it looks to continue its decade-long dominance over Belizean politics.
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