Elections in Belize
|This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
Elections in Belize are the duly held elections held at various levels of government in the nation of Belize.
- 1 Dissolving elected bodies
- 2 General elections
- 3 Municipal elections
- 4 By-elections and referendums
- 5 Government of elections
- 6 Latest elections
- 7 Past elections
- 8 See also
- 9 External links
Dissolving elected bodies
Dissolving the National Assembly of Belize is the prerogative of the Governor General of Belize, currently Sir Colville Young. Under sections 84 and 85 of the Constitution, the Governor General can at any time dissolve or prorogue the Assembly under the advice of the Prime Minister of Belize, with the caveat that a general election must be called within three months of such dissolution, unless the Governor General sees no reason to do so.
City and town councils
City and town councils dissolve on the last Sunday of February in every third year, with the election called for the first Wednesday in March in every third year.
Amandala columnist Henry Gordon, refuting a statement by former Prime Minister Said Musa, laid out the boundaries under which national elections can be called in a recent article. Musa had said that elections would be held by March 2008 and that he would not take an election into "the extra three months", as he claimed Gordon had supposed. Gordon responded that there is no such provision in the Constitution and that Musa was being obscure on the matter.
Mr. Musa had requested a dissolution of the National Assembly on January 24, 2003, 4 years, 7 months and 4 days after the last general election, August 27, 1998. That dissolution was granted by Young on February 4, 2003, at which time the Assembly stood dissolved while preparations were made for elections on March 5, 2003. The PUP won the elections, with Musa continuing as Prime Minister. But his term did not begin, says Gordon, until the first meeting of the new National Assembly, on April 4, 2003. Since a National Assembly must continue for five years from this first sitting under Section 84, subsec. 2, the current assembly shall stand dissolved- unless sooner dissolved- on April 3, 2008. It follows that the latest a general election can be called after that date is July 3, 2008. Mr. Musa ended speculation over the date of general elections by calling them for February 7, 2008.
Belize elects on national level a legislature. The National Assembly has two chambers. The House of Representatives has 31 members, elected for a five-year term in single-seat constituencies as of 2008[update]. The Senate has 12 members appointed for a five-year term.
Belize has a two-party system, which means that there are two dominant political parties, with extreme difficulty for anybody to achieve electoral success under the banner of any other party. Only once in the most recent general elections did an independent candidate receive more votes than a party candidate. Wilfred Elrington, running independently in 2003, received twice as many votes as the UDP candidate but failed to win. Elrington had previously separated from his party but they have since reconciled. Despite the overall abysmal record of independent candidates and third parties, the political process in Belize still sees its fair share of well-intentioned people stepping forward to serve the nation.
The six Districts of Belize are subdivided into 31 constituencies.
On the local level, citizens in towns and villages elect municipal councils every three years. Belize has seven towns and two recognized cities, Belize City (since 1945) and Belmopan (since 2000). Belize City, due to its bigger size, carries greater representation and importance, with one mayor and ten councillors elected (previously nine individuals out of which the Mayor was selected), as opposed to one Mayor and six councillors for Belmopan and the towns. The two party system is in effect here as well, but independents and third party candidates have of late been doing relatively well in local elections. The latest such election was held on March 1, 2006, and the next election is tentatively scheduled for 2009.
By-elections and referendums
These types of elections are held on a less regular basis. By-elections are usually held to replace representatives either locally or nationally, who are lost during the course of their term for various reasons. The last such election was held in October 2003 to replace deceased representative Agripino Cawich, who won his seat just months earlier from the man who won the by-election, John Saldivar, but died due to illness.
Referendums are normally held on issues of local or national importance. Belize had never held a national referendum before 2008, though one has consistently been demanded in order to settle the Guatemalan claim to Belize. Provisions have been made for a treaty to settle this claim to go to a referendum. In 1999, residents of Belmopan held a referendum to determine whether they would be responsible for their own affairs as a city; a majority voted yes, and Belmopan held its first City Council election less than a year later.
Prime Minister Said Musa announced on January 7, 2008 that a national referendum would be held on the same date as general elections, asking the people of Belize to decide whether they wanted the country's upper house, the Senate, to be elected.
Government of elections
In Belize, elections are supervised by the Elections and Boundaries Commission under the control of a Chief Elections Officer, responsible for conducting fair elections. Stuart Leslie was appointed to the post in August 2005, replacing veteran Myrtle Palacio. The EBC also has a Board of Directors which includes party representatives. The EBC was established in 1978 to relieve the public service of the duties of holding elections by themselves; an Elections and Boundaries Department was added in 1988. The EBD maintains a list of voters at offices countrywide and new voters regularly come in to sign on to the voter registration list for elections. The list was last revamped in 1997. The vote is restricted to Belizeans 18 years and older; the 18-year old vote has been in place since 1978.
Stuart Leslie confirmed to local television station 7 News that he would not serve as Chief Elections Officer beyond December 2006, having accepted a post in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 7 News also reported that the usual reregistration exercise conducted every decade is about due (the last one having taken place nine years ago), but that the political parties are willing to delay it until after 2008 elections take place. 7 News article
In December 2006 career public officer Dorothy Bradley succeeded Leslie as Chief Elections Officer and immediately committed herself to streamlining the electoral process and restoring voter confidence. News 5 report Bradley has reportedly resigned as of September 2007, leaving the position vacant.
List of Chief Election Officers since 1988
- 1988-1994: Winston Carr
- 1994-1999: Urban A. Reyes
- 1999-2005: Myrtle Palacio
- 2005-2006: Stuart Leslie
- December 2006-September 2007: Dorothy Bradley
- September 2007-2010: Ruth Meighan (acting)
- February 2010 – October 2011: Dorothy Bradley
- October 2011 – present: Josephine Tamai
|United Democratic Party||64,976||50.37||17|
|People's United Party||61,329||47.54||14|
|People's National Party||828||0.64||—|
|Vision Inspired by the People||382||0.30||—|
|Total valid votes||128,999||100.00||31|
|Total votes cast (turnout 73.16%)||130,258|
- Adam Carr's Election Archive
- Official website of Belize's Elections and Boundaries Commission
- Live Elections Coverage by Love FM
- Live Elections Online Statistics and pictures from FarWorld Tech