By Aaron Humes: The Government of Belize – or rather the Elections and Boundaries Commission – is to start work in the New Year on the long-awaited redistricting of electoral boundaries.
It cannot be done in a week, as an attorney for the Belize PEACE Movement, which sued in part to stop last year’s elections from taking place until the imbalance was corrected, once asserted. Nor, it appears, can it be done in a year, as the then-Opposition People’s United Party suggested before taking office.
But it is required under the Constitution, and a task force appointed by the Commission is due to start its work.
Henry Charles Usher’s portfolios of the Public Service, Constitutional and Political Reform also encompass elections and boundaries. But he was clear in an interview earlier this week that the Commission – and once its report is complete, the National Assembly – has the final say.
Usher asserted to reporters, “I find it interesting that the PEACE Movement keeps suggesting that they need to meet with me on this redistricting exercise. It doesn’t fall under my portfolio. Yes, the Elections and Boundaries Department does come under my ministry, but redistricting is done by the Elections and Boundaries Commission. They are an independent commission, a bipartisan commission made up of members from the Government’s side and from the Opposition’s side. And from by constitution, they are the ones authorized to carry out this redistricting exercise.”
The Minister made note that the task force, which would include persons who are experts in statistics, persons who are experts in terms of mapping, GIS, and certain other things from lands, and certainly, somebody who will be doing the groundwork, is due to finish by July of 2023, and whatever boundaries come therefrom take effect with the next general election.
The Commission and its attorney reportedly rejected an offer to settle the case with the PEACE Movement, which has now requested summary judgment on Claim 55 of 2019 from Acting Chief Justice Michelle Arana, who had ordered mediation between the parties.
Usher personally believes that the matter is moot, but the PEACE Movement insists that they will continue to pursue it until the constitutional imbalance of the size of the constituencies is repaired.