The leader of the People’s United Party (PUP), John Briceño, has been sworn in as the fifth Prime Minister of Belize and has promised to name his Cabinet later today.
Briceño led his PUP to a landslide victory in Wednesday’s general election, defeating the ruling United Democratic Party (UDP) that had been seeking an unprecedented fourth consecutive term in office.
The UDP had contested the election under the leadership of its new leader, Patrick Faber, who had replaced outgoing prime minister Dean Barrow, who had earlier announced his retirement from active politics.
Before family, friends and supporters, Briceño took the oath of office as the new head of government, promising to usher in a new era and transform government, making it more accessible and accountable. Briceño, who became the first Prime Minister representing an electoral division outside of the capital, later told reporters “I am lost of words as to how I can really and truly express my feelings at this moment, feelings of gratitude first to our creator, our God and also to my family, to our colleagues and standard bearers and to the people of Belize.
“The Governor-General said it best that God speaks through his people and the Belize people have spoken,” he said.
The PUP won 26 of the 31 seats in the Parliament with the UDP being victorious mainly in the Belize City constituencies.
“And as such we will respect the decision of the Belizean people. As of today, we are no longer PUP standard bearers but we are representatives of the people. We are a government of the people of Belize. And I want to assure everyone that we are going to be an open, accountable, and accessible government for the people of Belize,” Briceño said.
He told reporters that under his leadership, the PUP had managed to successfully convince the people of Belize in their “Everybody Fi Win” slogan and in the plans and goals set out in the party’s BelizePlan manifesto.
Briceño told reporters that he is aware that the new government is coming into office at a time of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic that has severely impacted the local economy as well as the floods caused by the passage of Tropical Storm eta in the past few days.
“It is an awesome feeling but at the same time when you feel the burden of the office, it is also very humbling to realize that this nation is depending on myself as Prime Minister and our colleagues who were elected yesterday as representative. I think it will take some time to sink in but right now we are happy. We are elated. We are humbled by the confidence that the Belizean people have given us.”
He said he intends to announce the composition of the new Cabinet on Friday “and by Monday morning we are going to be having the oath of office.
“We have to do in groups of five because of the pandemic and the instruction request of the Governor-General and then on Monday afternoon we plan to have our first Cabinet briefing on the financial situation, on COVID-19, the flooding that is presently affecting us.”
Asked by reporters whether he would be having a message for those parliamentarians who cannot be members of the new Cabinet, Prime Minister John Briceño replied ‘well we always have to remember why we were elected.
“We were elected as representatives of the people of your constituency and not as your minister. Secondly, the constitution prevents me from having everybody in the Cabinet. We can only have two-thirds of those who have been elected so we have to follow the law. We are going to do our best to have a proper balance in the cabinet and to ensure that we could put the right people in the right cases,” he said.