Belizean general election, 2008

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Belizean general election, 2008
Belize
2003 ←
7 February 2008 → 2012

All 31 seats in the Belize House of Representatives (including two new seats)
  First party Second party
  Dean Barrow Said Musa
Leader Dean Barrow Said Musa
Party UDP PUP
Leader since 1998 1996
Leader's seat Queen's Square Fort George
Last election 7 seats 22 seats
Seats before 8 seats 21 seats
Seats won 25 seats 6 seats
Seat change Increase17 Decrease15
Popular vote 66,203 47,624
Percentage 56.61% 40.72%
Swing Increase17.2 Decrease12.44

Prime Minister before election

Said Musa
PUP

Elected Prime Minister

Dean Barrow
UDP

Coat of arms of Belize.svg
This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
Belize

A legislative election was held in the nation of Belize on February 7, 2008. Beginning with this election, Belizeans elected 31 members to the House of Representatives of Belize instead of 29. In what was considered an upset, the opposition United Democratic Party (UDP) won the election with 25 out of 31 seats; the ruling People's United Party won six.[1]

A national referendum had also been called to determine the views of Belizeans on an elected Senate.

October 2003 Cayo South by-election[edit]

In August 2003 Cayo South Area Rep. Agripino Cawich of the PUP died, triggering a by-election in the constituency, only the second held in Belize since independence. The by-election was won by the UDP's John Saldivar, who had lost to Cawich in the general election earlier in 2003. Saldivar's win flipped the constituency to the UDP column and increased the party's caucus to eight for the remainder of the term.[2]

Early predictions[edit]

The Society for the Promotion of Education and Research (SPEAR) released the results of an opinion poll conducted in conjunction with SJC's Belizean Studies Centre in October 2005. In an election 49% of voters would consider voting for a third party; between the current parties 34.5% said they would vote for the PUP and the rest for the UDP.[3]

As a followup, SPEAR conducted a second poll released on October 31, 2006 ([4]). When asked who they would vote for, 32% said UDP, 11.8% PUP and 22% a third party. Smaller numbers either said they would not vote at all or declined to say who they would vote for. The nation's largest newspaper, the Amandala, headlined[5] that more than half of Belizeans had rejected the PUP and UDP by either supporting a third party or declining to vote; this notion was soundly rejected by the UDP in particular and resulted in back and forth editorial responses in the Amandala and the UDP's Guardian in November, with the UDP charging that publisher Evan X Hyde was playing into the PUP's hands by supporting third parties openly instead of the UDP, and Amandala reiterating that its policy was of Belizeans First[6] and that neither party had thoroughly considered the welfare of "roots" Belizeans since Independence. In March 2007, the University of Belize and Saint John's College Junior College's Belizean Studies Centre conducted a one-weekend poll of 430 randomly selected persons seeking opinions on the 2008 elections.[7] The poll was supervised by UB Registrar Dr. Roy Young and BSC's Yasmine Andrews. On the question of approval of party leaders, the UDP's Dean Barrow led all contestants with 55.7% approval; sitting Prime Minister Said Musa scored 14.9%, while independent leaders rated below that. Results by party were similar, with the UDP scoring 55.5%, the PUP 16% and independents scores ranging from 2 to 9%.

2007 Village council elections[edit]

Beginning in March 2007 and continuing through April 22, Belize's 193 villages held council elections on Sundays of every weekend except for Easter. While the Village Council elections are supposed to be non-partisan, the major parties and independents considered them a litmus test for the general elections. From the very beginning, back and forth charges of inaccurate statistics and party favoritism have stained the elections, with both the blue and the red claiming victory in the majority of contested seats. Press releases from both parties claim victory. The results are detailed below.

Results of Village Council elections 2007[8]

UDP PUP Independent
114 (own estimate) 103 (own estimate) 16 (PUP estimate)
74 (PUP estimate) 67 (UDP estimate) 9 (UDP estimate)

Dissolving the House[edit]

Prime Minister Said Musa twice had chances to dissolve the House of Representatives in session, on November 16, 2007 and December 19, 2007; both times he passed. However, Musa committed to calling elections before March 2008, the date when they were last held. With the announcement on Monday, January 7, 2008, the House was dissolved from that date. 93 candidates from six parties were nominated Monday, January 21, 2008 and elections were held on Thursday, February 7, 2008. The date chosen was one day behind Ash Wednesday, February 6; according to local media three elections have been called on an Ash Wednesday during Musa's term, of which he has won two.

Election campaigning[edit]

People's United Party[edit]

Campaigning kicked off in earnest from as early as summer 2007. The ruling PUP have rolled out a number of programs designed to woo the electorate, including the promise of free textbooks for primary school students,[9] improved infrastructure on the deep southside of Belize City[10] and a planned rollout of a health insurance scheme in early 2008. Prime Minister Said Musa spent much of the early summer touring the South and West and continued his tour of the country in September and October. The PUP held a press conference on January 7, 2008 and announced pay increases for soldiers, teachers and public officers to take place after the general election. They released their manifesto "Believe in Belize-The BLUEprint" on January 22.

United Democratic Party[edit]

The United Democratic Party, for its part, concentrated on shoring up support[11] in the districts and fighting fires in the various municipal governments they have controlled since March 2006. Party Leader Dean Barrow has likewise toured much of the country since June. Both parties' journalism machinery have dug up various scandals on either side. The Elections and Boundaries Department have noted an increase[12] in the number of voter transfers between divisions,[13] usually done in July and August.

The UDP released its election manifesto, Imagine the Possibilities: 2008-13, to a cheering crowd of supporters at its party headquarters in Belize City on January 16, 2008.

Third party announcements[edit]

Several third parties participated. Among them are established parties Vision Inspired by the People out of Belmopan and We the People Reform Movement from the North, Cornelius Dueck's National Reform Party and Wil Maheia's People's National Party

Attempts by third parties to unify have largely proven unsuccessful. The Amandala of March 18, 2007 indicated that the PNP and WTP had formed an alliance (later named the National Belizean Alliance (NBA)) and were expected to announce their combined slate soon. The parties wrote joint letters to the Amandala in pre-election issues.

Each party separately nominated candidates: VIP nominated 11 candidates, as did the NRP, and the NBA nominated four.

In the Amandala of Sunday, March 11, former party the National Reality Truth Creation Party returned to the political scene with a full page ad endorsing one Ebony Babb for Queen's Square; the ad also extolled the Christian virtues of the party, led by musician Jorge Ernesto Babb. The ad appealed to all "natural Creole born Belizeans" to support the NRTCP in 2008. Subsequent announcements by the NRTCP in the Amandala include Babb himself as a candidate in Freetown.

In November 2007, the major parties confronted each other over an inflammatory political sign[14] in Belize City;[15] a number of individuals were either arrested or threatened with arrest, including Mayor Zenaida Moya.[16] The incident drew the ire of third parties such as the NBA and VIP[17] and led to the signing of a "gentleman's agreement between all major political parties at the request of the Police Department. Despite the signing of this agreement, reports of continued vandalism of signs and inflammatory television commercials continue to circulate.

Issues in the 2008 elections[edit]

  • Municipal governance: The People's United Party, who were defeated in the 2006 municipal elections by the United Democratic Party, point to their spotty performance in governing the towns, particularly Belize City, Orange Walk and San Ignacio; the UDP claim the PUP has been strangling their resources and falsifying the situation.
  • Political reform and corruption: The minor parties have all come forward with strategies designed to prevent the large-scale official corruption they say has taken place under the outgoing administration. These include electing the Senate and empowering it with greater oversight over the House, limiting the term of the Prime Minister and the House, electing the Prime Minister directly instead of by appointment, introducing powers of impeachment and recall, and strengthening established institutions and officials to keep them independent of the political hierarchy, among others. Both major parties have adopted bits and pieces of these strategies, but the UDP is not fully convinced of the necessity of an elected Senate.
    • Note: On December 19, 2007, the ruling party issued in its last House meeting for the year a bill for a referendum on the introduction of an elected Senate. Despite the Opposition's pleas for the date to be extended in order to consider as many forms of the elected Senate as possible the resolution passed both the Senate[18] and the House.[19]
  • Administration performance: The UDP remains convinced that the ruling PUP have largely abandoned the promises that got them elected in 1998 and 2003, while the PUP point to a number of natural disasters and other emergencies that they say have prevented them from doing a better job. The PUP's view seems borne out by the passage of two hurricanes, Dean which caused 200 m in damages and Felix.

Media coverage[edit]

Both major television stations and all radio stations and newspapers report increased coverage of political stories in the runup to the upcoming elections.

Orange Walk's Centaur Cable Television's Jorge Aldana was reportedly assaulted by opponents and appeared on 7 News claiming political interference. Both major parties have gone after the self-proclaimed "independent" media houses such as Kremandala Ltd. (owner of Amandala, Krem Radio and Krem Television), The Reporter and the defunct Independent.

Channel 5 and LOVE FM have united for "Decision 2008" beginning at 6 AM Thursday, while Channel 7 and KREM FM have named their umbrella coverage "'08 NOW!"

Final list of candidates by party and constituency[20][edit]

This list represents the nominations received by the Elections and Boundaries Department on Nomination Day, January 21.Bold indicates incumbent.

Constituency PUP UDP VIP NRP NBA
Albert Mark Espat Tom Morrison
Belize Rural Central Ralph Fonseca[21] Michael Hutchinson Harrisford Myers
Belize Rural North Earl Perez Edmond Castro
Belize Rural South Merlene Spain Manuel Heredia Jr. Ernesto Caliz
Belmopan Rolando Zetina [22] John Saldivar[23] Paul Morgan
Caribbean Shores Jose Coye Carlos Perdomo
Cayo Central Mario Castellaños Rene Montero Gilroy Requeña George Boiton Jr.
Cayo North Otto Coleman Salvador Fernandez Alden McDougal
Cayo Northeast Orlando Habet Elvin Penner Cornelius Dueck
Cayo South Charles Galvez Ramon Witz Hubert Enriquez Richard Smith
Cayo West Kendall Mendez Erwin Contreras Martha Hendricks
Collet Carolyn Trench-Sandiford Patrick Faber Patrick Rogers
Corozal Bay Juan Vildo Marin Pablo Marin
Corozal North Valdemar Castillo Nemencio Acosta
Corozal Southeast Florencio Marin Jr.[24] Servando Samos
Corozal Southwest Gregorio Garcia Gabriel Martinez
Dangriga Cassian Nunez Arturo Roches Quentin Mejia Denton Castillo
Fort George Said Musa Dr. George Gough
Freetown Francis Fonseca Michael Peyrefitte
Lake Independence Cordel Hyde Vanley Jenkins "Seagull" Joseph Martinez Gary Lambey
Mesopotamia Austin Waight Michael Finnegan
Orange Walk Central Johnny Briceño Rosendo Urbina Alvaro Espejo
Orange Walk East Marco Tulio Mendez Marcel Cardona Pabel Torres
Orange Walk North Servulo Baeza Gaspar Vega Hilberto Nah
Orange Walk South Jose Mai Mark Pech Edwardo Melendez Salustiano Lizama
Pickstock Godfrey Smith Wilfred Elrington
Port Loyola Oscar Rosado Anthony Martinez Erwin X (Jones)
Queen's Square Anthony Sylvester Dean Barrow
Stann Creek West Rodwell Ferguson Melvin Hulse Mateo Polanco
Toledo East Mike Espat Eden Martinez Wil Maheia
Toledo West Marcial Mes Juan Coy Max Cho Fermin Choc Dionisio Chuc

Others:

  • National Reality Truth Creation Party:
    • Jorge E. Babb, Freetown
    • Ebony Babb, Queen's Square
  • Independents
    • Herman Lewis, Toledo East
    • Queen Miller, Belize Rural Central
    • Nazim Juan, Cayo Central

Max Samuels in Belize Rural North, Florencio Marin Senior in Corozal South East, Dave Burgos in Orange Walk East, Ismael Cal in Orange Walk South, Ainslie Leslie in Cayo North and Sylvia Flores in Dangriga are not seeking reelection. All represented the People's United Party in their constituencies.

Final results[edit]

e • d Summary of the 7 February 2008 Belizean House of Representatives election results
Parties Votes % Seats
United Democratic Party 66,203 56.61 25
People's United Party 47,624 40.72 6
National Reform Party 887 0.76
Vision Inspired by the People 874 0.75
National Belizean Alliance (including People's National Party) 506 0.43
Independents 71 0.06
National Reality Truth Creation Party 29 0.02
Total valid votes 116,194 100.00 31
Invalid votes 749
Total votes cast (turnout 74.49%) 116,943
Registered voters 157,993

References[edit]

  1. ^ UDP causes major upset in Belize elections (February 8, 2008), Caribbean360.com.
  2. ^ Result of By-election 2003, Belize Elections and Boundaries Commission. (accessed 3 December 2014)
  3. ^ http://www.7newsbelize.com/archive/10170505.html
  4. ^ http://www.channel5belize.com/archive_detail_story.php?story_id=17316 News 5 report
  5. ^ http://www.amandala.com.bz/index.php?id=60 51% of Belizeans reject PUP, UDP! (Amandala)
  6. ^ Belize News - Belize's Leading Newspaper | Belize's Breaking News - Amandala Online
  7. ^ http://www.7newsbelize.com/archive/03200704.html 7 News story by Alfonso Noble
  8. ^ Channel5Belize.COM
  9. ^ http://www.channel5belize.com/archive_detail_story.php?story_id=18847 Channel 5 News, July 9, 2007: Government plan for free textbooks
  10. ^ http://www.channel5belize.com/archive_detail_story.php?story_id=18858 Channel 5 News, July 10, 2007: Southside project under fire from area rep
  11. ^ http://www.7newsbelize.com/archive/08010709.html 7 News, August 2, 2007: Barrow on UDP's readiness
  12. ^ http://www.7newsbelize.com/archive/08010708.html 7 News, August 2, 2007: Finnegan and voter transfers
  13. ^ http://www.7newsbelize.com/archive/08010707.html 7 News, August 2, 2007: 1 more month to transfer
  14. ^ http://www.amandala.com.bz/index.php?id=6279 PUP, UDP eyeball to eyeball over sign
  15. ^ http://www.channel5belize.com/archive_detail_story.php?story_id=19612 News 5 story on incident
  16. ^ http://www.channel5belize.com/archive_detail_story.php?story_id=19622 Followup report
  17. ^ Amandala, November 18, 2007.
  18. ^ http://www.7newsbelize.com/archive/12210701.html7News, Dec. 21, 2007.
  19. ^ http://www.channel5belize.com/archive_detail_story.php?story_id=19857 No election date but referendum on elected Senate proposed, Channel 5, Dec. 19, 2007.
  20. ^ http://www.channel5belize.com/archive_detail_story.php?story_id=20072 Channel 5 News, January 23, 2008.
  21. ^ Endorsed June 24.http://www.channel5belize.com/archive_detail_story.php?story_id=18712
  22. ^ Endorsed June 26.http://www.channel5belize.com/archive_detail_story.php?story_id=18698
  23. ^ Currently representing Cayo South.
  24. ^ son of current area rep