Belize’s main opposition People’s United Party (PUP) romped home to a convincing victory in Wednesday’s general election and urged the entire nation to come together to build a “better Belize” in the future.
Preliminary reports give the PUP as many as 27 of the 31 seats in the Parliament, representing what television commentators were claiming to be “the new Blue wall” in Belize.
“So join us, Thank you Belize, thank you so much, stay safe, God bless you and God bless our beloved Belize,” PUP leader John Briceno told a small gathering as many supporters were prevented from attending the ceremony due to the curfew that has been in place in a bid to prevent the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19).
Briceno acknowledged that he had received a telephone call from the leader of the United Democratic Party (UDP), Patrick Faber, who was leading the ruling party into a general election for the first time since outgoing Prime Minister Dean Barrow had earlier announced his retirement from active politics.
The UDP was seeking an unprecedented fourth consecutive term in office, having won the 2015 general election by a 17 t0 14 margin under Barrow.
“It is with extreme gratitude that I address our nation tonight fully aware that this 2020 election is a clarion call for our young nation to grow up, to face the challenges of our generation and to advance our peaceful and progressive revolutions,” Briceno said.
“But most importantly to bring our people together as never before so that as one we can build a nation where everyone matters and everyone is once again to be a proud Belizean,” said Briceno, thanking his family including “my wife who is very emotional” and party supporters for the victory.
“I thank you for reminding me every day what service is all about,” he added.
In conceding defeat, Faber in a brief statement, said that he was wishing the PUP and Briceno “a successful administration.
“I call on all our people UDP’s, PUP’s and those that voted for the third-party and independent candidates to choose national unity as we band together in the face of the challenges we will no doubt face.
“While there were winners and losers, the democracy that we have continued to enjoy throughout the life of this great young nation is by far the greatest winner today,” said Faber.
Briceno said he appreciated the telephone call from Faber, adding he had also congratulated the UDP leader “on a hard-fought campaign and expressed my sincere desire to work together in the best interest of our nation.
“To everyone in this nation thank you. To the good people of Orange Central for giving me this opportunity for the seventh time to represent you,” said Briceno, who served twice as deputy prime minister in the Said Musa administration of 1998-2008,
“To all our standard-bearers, congratulations thank you and to our amazing campaign organisers and everyone who believed in our plan for Belize, thank you very much,” he added.
The polls here were held against concerns of a stagnant economy and rising coronavirus (COVID-19) infections.
The Election and Boundaries Department said that at least 80 per cent of the 182,815 voters had cast their ballots in the election. Thirty-one seats in the House of Representatives were at stake in the ninth parliamentary elections since Belize became independent in 1981. There were 88 candidates representing four political parties and several independents.
The counting of the ballots took place during the 8.00 pm to 5.00 am curfew with the authorities warning that no one would be allowed out in public, except media workers and the candidates along with two or three assistants who must be approved prior to Wednesday night.
The major issues in the campaign leading up to the elections were the COVID-19 pandemic and the economy, with both the UDP and the PUP promising to dedicate a lot of resources and energy into “flattening” the curve of virus that has infected more than 4,230 people and killed 71 others in the country.
The prolonged downturn in the economy, exacerbated by the closure of the borders due to the virus, has left many of the estimated 400,000 population, fighting poverty.
Scandals and graft allegations have taken the shine off Prime Minister Barrow’s record, and there have been allegations of nepotism, given that his sister is running to succeed him in parliament, while his son, was also on the UDP ticket.