Elections in Belize

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Elections in Belize are the duly held elections held at various levels of government in the nation of Belize.

Belize country in Central America

Belize is a country located on the eastern coast of Central America. Belize is bordered on the northwest by Mexico, on the east by the Caribbean Sea, and on the south and west by Guatemala. It has an area of 22,970 square kilometres (8,867 sq mi) and a population of 387,879 (2017). Its mainland is about 180 mi (290 km) long and 68 mi (110 km) wide. It has the lowest population and population density in Central America. The country's population growth rate of 1.87% per year (2015) is the second highest in the region and one of the highest in the Western Hemisphere.

Contents

Dissolving elected bodies

The Legislature

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.

Colville Young Governor-General of Belize

Sir Colville Norbert Young is the Governor-General of Belize, and also patron of the Scout Association of Belize. He was appointed Governor-General in 1993, taking office on 17 November of that year, and was knighted in 1994.

Constitution of Belize

The Constitution of Belize is the supreme law of the nation of Belize. It was signed on September 1981 with effect from that date.

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.

Example

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.

<i>Amandala</i> Belizean tabloid newspaper

Amandala is a Belizean tabloid newspaper; published twice weekly, it is considered the "most widely circulated newspaper in Belize". It was established on 13 August 1969 as the print organ of the now-defunct United Black Association for Development (UBAD), but has been politically independent since the mid-1970s. Its offices are located at 3304 Partridge Street in Belize City.

Said Musa Belizean politician

Said Wilbert Musa is a Belizean lawyer and politician. He was the Prime Minister of Belize from 28 August 1998 to 8 February 2008.

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.

General elections

On the national level Belize elects a bicameral legislature called the National Assembly. The more powerful lower chamber, the House of Representatives, currently has 31 members elected for terms up to five years in single-seat constituencies on a first past the post basis. Members of the Belize House are called "area representatives" and are accorded the title of "The Honourable."

A bicameral legislature divides the legislators into two separate assemblies, chambers, or houses. Bicameralism is distinguished from unicameralism, in which all members deliberate and vote as a single group, and from some legislatures that have three or more separate assemblies, chambers, or houses. As of 2015, fewer than half the world's national legislatures are bicameral.

A legislature is a deliberative assembly with the authority to make laws for a political entity such as a country or city. Legislatures form important parts of most governments; in the separation of powers model, they are often contrasted with the executive and judicial branches of government.

Constituencies of Belize

Belize's 6 districts are politically divided into 31 constituencies. Each constituency sends one representative to Belize's House of Representatives for 5-year terms. This election is known as the General Election. Each person votes for the candidate they would want to represent their constituency in Central Government.

Parties

Belize has a two-party system, which means that there are two dominant political parties. The current two-party system, which has been in place since the pre-independence 1974 election, consists of the centre-left People's United Party (PUP) and the centre-right United Democratic Party (UDP). It has been extremely difficult for anybody to achieve electoral success as an independent or under the banner of any other party. Philip Goldson, a longtime UDP area representative who ran under the National Alliance for Belizean Rights banner in 1993, is the only successful candidate outside the two major parties since independence.

A two-party system is a party system where two major political parties dominate the government. One of the two parties typically holds a majority in the legislature and is usually referred to as the majority or governing party while the other is the minority or opposition party. Around the world, the term has different senses. For example, in the United States, Jamaica, and Malta, the sense of two-party system describes an arrangement in which all or nearly all elected officials belong to one of the only two major parties, and third parties rarely win any seats in the legislature. In such arrangements, two-party systems are thought to result from various factors like winner-takes-all election rules. In such systems, while chances for third-party candidates winning election to major national office are remote, it is possible for groups within the larger parties, or in opposition to one or both of them, to exert influence on the two major parties. In contrast, in the United Kingdom and Australia and in other parliamentary systems and elsewhere, the term two-party system is sometimes used to indicate an arrangement in which two major parties dominate elections but in which there are viable third parties which do win seats in the legislature, and in which the two major parties exert proportionately greater influence than their percentage of votes would suggest.

Peoples United Party Belizean political party

The People's United Party (PUP) is one of two major political parties in Belize. It is currently the main opposition party with 12 of 31 seats in the House of Representatives. It is a centre-left Christian democratic party. The party leader is Johnny Briceño, who currently serves as Belize's Leader of the Opposition.

Only once in recent general elections has an independent candidate received more votes than a major party candidate. Wilfred Elrington, running independently in 2003, finished second in front of the UDP candidate in the Pickstock constituency. Like Goldson, Elrington also had a longstanding prior relationship with the UDP. He later rejoined the UDP and won election to the Belize House from Pickstock in 2008.

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.

Process

Both major Belizean political parties nominate House candidates via a preselection process similar to those used in other Westminster systems. These nominees are called "standard bearers." In most cases incumbent House members retain standard bearer status for their party, while the opposition party in a given constituency often nominates its standard bearer months or even years in advance of a general election. Standard bearers are considered party officials responsible for overall political organization in their particular constituencies regardless of whether they currently serve in the Belize House or not.

Members of the 12-seat upper house of the National Assembly, the Senate, are officially appointed by the Governor-General of Belize. In current practice the majority party in the House appoints six senators and the minority party appoints three. The remaining three senators are appointed by nonpartisan groups.

The last Belizean general election was held on 4 November 2015. [1] The next general election must be held by late 2020.

Constituencies

Since 2008 the six Districts of Belize have been subdivided into 31 constituencies. Constituency breakdown by district is as follows:

Municipal elections

Unlike general elections which are held every five years or at the pleasure of the governor-general, by statute cities and towns hold municipal elections on the first Wednesday in March every third year. Belize has seven towns and two recognized cities, Belize City (since 1945) and Belmopan (since 2000). The seven settlements with town status are Benque Viejo del Carmen, Corozal Town, Dangriga, Orange Walk Town, Punta Gorda, San Ignacio/Santa Elena and San Pedro Town. Smaller settlements hold elections independent of this schedule.

Belize City, due to its size, carries greater representation and importance, with one mayor and ten councilors elected (previously nine individuals out of which the mayor was selected), as opposed to one mayor and six councilors 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 last municipal election was held on 4 March 2015. The next municipal election is tentatively scheduled for 7 March 2018.

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.

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 7 January 2008 a nonbinding 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. The referendum passed with 61 percent of voters supporting an elected Senate. [2]

List of by-elections in Belize

Only four by-elections have been called for Belize House seats since the country became independent in September 1981, although two were held in 2015. [3] In all four by-elections, the incumbent party failed to retain the seat. Several other by-elections have been held at the municipal level:

Constituency Date Incumbent Party Winner Party Cause Retained
Dangriga 8 July 2015 [4] Ivan Ramos      PUP Frank Mena      UDP ResignationNo
Cayo North 5 January 2015 [5] Joseph Mahmud      PUP Omar Figueroa      UDP ResignationNo
Cayo South 29 October 2003 [6] Agripino Cawich      PUP John Saldivar      UDP Death (cancer)No
Freetown January 1993 Derek Aikman      NABR Jorge Espat      PUP Expelled from House due to bankruptcyNo

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

Latest elections

e    d  Summary of the 7 March 2012 Belizean House of Representatives election results
PartiesVotes%Seats
United Democratic Party 64,97650.3717
People's United Party 61,32947.5414
People's National Party 8280.64
Independents 8220.64
Vision Inspired by the People 3820.30
Total valid votes128,999100.0031
Invalid votes1,259
Total votes cast (turnout 73.16%)130,258
Registered voters178,054

Past elections

See also

Related Research Articles

House of Representatives (Belize) lower house of Belize

The House of Representatives of Belize is one of two chambers of the National Assembly, the other being the Senate. It was created under the 1981 constitution. Members are commonly called "Area Representatives."

2003 Belizean general election

A legislative election was held in Belize on 5 March 2003. Belizeans elected 29 members to the House of Representatives for a term of five years.

1998 Belizean general election

General elections were held in Belize on 27 August 1998. The result was a victory for the People's United Party, which won 26 of the 29 seats and Said Musa was elected as Prime Minister for the first time. Voter turnout was 90.1%, the highest since independence.

Vision Inspired by the People

Vision Inspired by the People (VIP) is a political party established in December 2005 in the Cayo District of Belize. It first contested municipal elections in the capital city of Belmopan on 1 March 2006, receiving 20 percent of votes cast but none of the seven seats. VIP operates primarily in Belmopan, but also has a presence in the Belize and Corozal Districts.

2008 Belizean general election

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.

Philip Stanley Wilberforce Goldson was a Belizean newspaper editor, activist and politician. He served in the House of Representatives of Belize as member for the Albert constituency from 1965 to 1998 and twice as a minister. Goldson was a founding member of both of Belize's current major political parties, the People's United Party (PUP) in the 1950s and the United Democratic Party (UDP) in the 1970s. He was also the leading spokesman of the hardline anti-Guatemalan territorial claims National Alliance for Belizean Rights party in the 1990s.

2008 Belizean constitutional referendum

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Index of Belize-related articles Wikimedia list article

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John Birchman Saldivar is a Belizean politician. A member of the United Democratic Party, Saldivar has represented the Belmopan constituency in the Belize House of Representatives since its creation in 2008. He was previously Area Representative for Cayo South.

Elvin Penner is a Belizean politician who served in the House of Representatives from 2008 to 2015 representing the Cayo North East constituency. He is a member of the United Democratic Party. Penner was the first Belizean Mennonite elected to national office.

2012 Belizean general election

A legislative election was held in Belize on 7 March 2012 to elect all 31 members of the Belize House of Representatives as well as offices in the various local governments. The election was run by the Elections and Boundaries Commission's Elections and Boundaries Department. Dean Barrow and his United Democratic Party (UDP) were re-elected, but lost eight seats to the opposition People's United Party (PUP) to maintain a slim 17-14 majority in the Belize House. The upper house of the Belize National Assembly, the Senate, was appointed after the election by the UDP-led government in accordance with the Constitution of Belize.

2015 Belizean general election

General elections were held in Belize on 4 November 2015 to elect members of the House of Representatives. On 28 September 2015 Prime Minister Dean Barrow announced that he had advised the Governor-General to dissolve the National Assembly and to fix Wednesday 4 November 2015 as the date for the next general elections.

Belmopan is an electoral constituency in the Cayo District represented in the House of Representatives of the National Assembly of Belize since 2008 by John Saldivar of the United Democratic Party.

Cayo North East is an electoral constituency in the Cayo District represented in the House of Representatives of the National Assembly of Belize since 2015 by Orlando Habet of the People's United Party.

Cayo North is an electoral constituency in the Cayo District represented in the House of Representatives of the National Assembly of Belize since 2015 by Omar Figueroa of the United Democratic Party.

Cayo South is an electoral constituency in the Cayo District represented in the House of Representatives of the National Assembly of Belize since 2012 by Julius Espat of the People's United Party.

Next Belizean general election

The next Belizean general election will elect members of the country's House of Representatives. It must be held on or before 13 February 2021.

References

  1. Trujillo, Renee. "Prime Minister Announces Date for General Elections", LOVE FM, 28 September 2015. (accessed 29 September 2015)
  2. Referendum Results 2008, Belize Elections and Boundaries Commission. (accessed 26 November 2014)
  3. "Parliamentarian Resigns; Bi-election to be held in Cayo North on January 5th", The San Pedro Sun , 25 November 2014. (accessed 26 November 2014)
  4. Humes, Aaron "Frank 'Papa' Mena is the new Dangriga area representative ", Breaking Belize News, 8 July 2015. (accessed 8 July 2015)
  5. "Dr Omar Figueroa elected as new Area Rep for Cayo North", The San Pedro Sun , 6 January 2015. (accessed 6 January 2015)
  6. Result of By-election 2003, Belize Elections and Boundaries Commission. (accessed 26 November 2014)