Voters In Belize Choose Change

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John-Briceno, Belize's new PM-elect. (Facebook image)
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News Americas, BELMOPAN, Belize, Thurs, Nov 12, 2020: Voters in the Central American CARICOM nation of Belize has chosen change, much like their neighbors in Guyana and Suriname, in elections held there Wednesday.

The main opposition People’s United Party (PUP) secured a landslide victory with preliminary reports claiming 27 of the 31 seats.

Thousands of voters braved the COVID-19 pandemic to show up Wednesday to vote as the country faces an economic crisis.

“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 commentators called the win “the new Blue wall.”

Briceno also 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 ban together in the face of the challenges we will no doubt face,” he said.  “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.

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 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 there.

Belize’s economy has shrunk on an annual basis every quarter since the April-June period last year through to the second quarter of 2020, the latest period for which data is available, according to government statistics.