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Red light, Blue light – paying for votes on election day

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Posted: Saturday, September 28, 2019. 9:04 pm CST.

By BBN Staff:  Belize’s general elections are held every 5 years. The most recent general elections was held in 2015 and the UDP won, boasting a three-peat after having served Belize and Belizeans since 2008.

Since then, the Opposition People’s United Party (PUP) has tried to regain the support of the Belizean voters to form the government.

The 1998 – 2008 Said Musa led PUP administration was wrought with scandals and brought much disappointment to the Belizean people after having been considered the party that worked and struggled with then Leader George Price to obtain Belize’s Independence in 1981.

After the scandals of corruption and protests, the general election was called in 2008 and Dean Barrow became Belize’s Prime Minister.

Barrow’s UDP won a landslide victory in 2008 under a promise of transparency, accountability and a no tolerance corruption policy. Barrow’s first term was uneventful and without much fanfare as not much was happening on the financial and economic front, and the UDP almost lost the 2012 general elections. However, Petrocaribe began to roll after 2012 and afforded the UDP a golden opportunity to impress the Belizean voters.

In Barrow’s second and third term, however, the UDP faced their own list of wrongdoings. These include accusations of nepotism, lack of accountability and due process in the use of Petrocaribe loan funds, kick-backs from contractors to politicians, immigration and land corruption scandals among others.

Notwithstanding the accusations above, and particularly due to the splurge afforded by easy access to Petrocaribe funds, the UDP managed to maintain the loyalty, love and support of the majority of Belizeans thus their decision to re-elect them a third time. The UDP’s convention to elect a new party leader to succeed Dean Barrow will be held in February 2010, and as such it is too early to judge the momentum of a Patrick Faber or John Saldivar led UDP.

Even though in opposition, the PUP has taken its own hits. Barrow himself never fails to remind the PUP “how can you dare speak about corruption when you are the architect of corruption itself”.

Going from the party of ‘old guards’ to the welcoming of some new vibrant blood and the installation of new standard bearers and deputy Party Leaders, the PUP hopes to gain enough traction to win the next general elections.  For the PUP, there are some signs of hope as they have gained ground in the recent city, town and village council elections. Winning the Belize City Council, staying with the Orange Walk Town Council and gaining the Corozal Town Council are considered major political achievements by the PUP.

Present Leader, John Briceno has managed to rebuild the party’s unity to some extent, as well as regain some trust and confidence among party supporters but is it enough to safeguard the PUP for the next general elections?

There is much truth in the saying that elections are won on election day. With standing colors, the red and the blue machinery goes into over drive to take as much people to the polls to cast their votes.

Over the years, both administrations have been accused of electoral fraud in the form of vote buying on election day.

Among the modern tactics is that of using popular sticky notes. It is alleged that voters are issued with sticky notes in different colors and the different colors are used for different amounts of money ranging from $50 to $400.

The voter would then obtain an agreed proof of their vote for that specific candidate, show that proof to a political agent, obtain a sticky note and then line up (as if purchasing chicken at a fast food joint) just at the office of the Area Representative and collect their money. Pictures and videos of this are commonly circulated on social media during and after the elections.

Apart from this being illegal, it is unethical. Electoral fraud is in effect the corruption of democracy.

Belize’s next general election is scheduled to be held sometime in 2020. While many rant on social media about the corruption disease, do note that electoral fraud, vote buying and vote selling is corruption.

This type of corruption undermines the act of a democratic election. It allows ‘hustling voters’, waiting for the highest incoming bid, to elect and make decisions for other Belizeans who desire to cast their votes for the better candidate that will work and serve Belize and Belizeans.

Belizeans, let’s individually refuse to be paid for our vote, and let’s begin to bring back some sanctity to the election process in the jewel.

 

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