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Redistricting blues – iconic divisions in Old Capital could see the chop; Opposition warns of pitfalls

Posted: Wednesday, June 28, 2023. 12:17 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: The long-awaited redrawing of Belize’s electoral map is a few weeks away from completion and just in time for forthcoming municipal and national elections, but as expected, there have been pitfalls.

The Belize District, home to 13 constituencies including 10 in Belize City, appears to be the primary target for revision, with several of its smallest constituencies – Fort George, Mesopotamia, and Queen’s Square – potentially on the chopping block.

Opposition Leader Moses “Shyne” Barrow, in his first term as area representative for Mesopotamia, will not lose his division but noted in an interview on Tuesday that he was threatened with losing at least a part of it. Other colleagues such as Collet’s Patrick Faber may not be so lucky because, he alleged, the original proposal of the electoral redistricting task force was “littered with gerrymandering” and “political interference.”

For instance, both Collet and Queen’s Square which is the former constituency of Prime Minister Dean Barrow were on the chopping block while Fort George, represented by People’s United Party chairman Henry Charles Usher, was at one point expected to absorb parts of Belize Rural South, specifically Caye Caulker and St George’s Caye. It was suggested part of Albert be merged with Fort George and move Mesopotamia’s Polling Area 13, based at Queens Square Anglican School on Armadillo Street, to Albert.

But to be entirely fair, says Barrow, Fort George must be eliminated as well as Port Loyola: “Fort George and Caribbean Shores which is contiguous, should be put together… the proposal should be to merge, to take Freetown, Caribbean Shores, and Fort George, take that three and make two. That two would be some of Caribbean Shores and go to Freetown and all of Fort George would go to Caribbean Shores and they would have to figure that out. Port Loyola, not Collet, Port Loyola should be broken up and given to Albert and Collet and then Queen Square should go into Mesopotamia.”

Later on Tuesday evening, first-term area representative Gilroy Usher Sr sent out a sharply-worded release stating that just about any of the other divisions in the City beside his own should be removed, as it is the second largest in the Old Capital and inside the band of 4,500 to 5,500 voters per division necessary to meet the Constitutional guideline, but Barrow said in this instance it may be necessary and he has spoken with his standard bearer in the area, Philip Willoughby, to prepare him.

Barrow also confirmed that constituencies will be added in Orange Walk, Cayo (including a split of Belmopan and a further split in San Ignacio), and Stann Creek (where Stann Creek West is the largest single constituency in Belize), but there are no reported changes for Corozal or Toledo.

The report is due by July 17 to meet the terms of the Consent Order obtained by the Belize PEACE Movement and Barrow indicates that it should be before the National Assembly by that time, but if the UDP are not satisfied with the proposals they reserve the right to court action.

 

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