Posted: Wednesday, October 2, 2019. 8:18 pm CST.
By Aaron Humes: They are arguably the most visible – and powerful – members of his Cabinet, and the most ambitious to be his successor. And Prime Minister and Leader of the United Democratic Party Dean Barrow already knows whom he will support next February 9, 2020 in Belize City.
So who is it – Deputy Prime Minister Patrick Faber, or Minister of National Security John Saldivar? P.M. Barrow said today that he has spoken to several colleagues about it, but he is not about to put it out publicly, which would almost certainly put a thumb on the scale of the race.
Barrow says he has been trying to get a sense of where the rest of the party goes and if the race is a landslide for one candidate or neck-and-neck. Apart from the usual “hurt feelings” after a race, the P.M. is feeling out how best to maneuver should there be particularly heavy issues.
Whomever it is must be prepared for what could be a fast transition, as discussions on when it is best for Barrow to step down will be taking place extensively between now and the early part of next year, with general elections due by the earliest November, and the latest the following February, 2021.
And at this stage, says the P.M., there will not likely be a third “surprise” candidate – it will be a one-on-one race between colleagues who have clashed at least twice before.
Here is how the P.M. framed his departure timeline: “The constitution of the [U.D.P.] allows me to stay until the [general] elections are called – that is not my intention. But as to when exactly I go, I really have to talk to colleagues in Cabinet once the contest is over. The convention date is February ninth; the Budget is usually read on or about March eighth or so – should I stay for the Budget at least, since we would have been, at the time of the convention, right in the middle of crafting; is it fair to leave that with someone who is new? And if I stay for the Budget, then do I go the first of April once the new financial year starts, or do I wait a little longer? It really is going to be dependent on what my colleagues say after the convention is over.”
Per Section 37 (2) of the Belize Constitution, the Governor General appoints as Prime Minister that person who leads the party that has a majority of seats in the House of Representatives. And the U.D.P. party constitution provides that the winner of a leadership convention is not automatically leader; they are “leader-elect” and only become leader when the incumbent resigns or a general election is called (meaning all seats and positions are open).
Barrow himself took office as UDP leader following the disastrous 1998 general elections and has completed 19 years and a few months, but will likely fall short of 20 years in the role. Either way it is the second longest such term behind George Price’s 40-year reign at the top of the People’s United Party, from 1956 to his succession by Said Musa in 1996.
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