By Durrant Pate
Belize is the latest CARICOM country heading to the polls during the ongoing COVID-19 global pandemic.
It has become the ninth country in the regional grouping to hold general elections since the COVID-19 outbreak in the Caribbean with some 3,145 nationals having been tested positive for the virus, recording 50 deaths so far with just over 1,900 individuals recovered. Belizeans will vote on November 11 to choose a government from the 91 candidates representing four political parties that will be contesting the general elections.
Belize will join Guyana, Suriname, Anguilla, St Kitts & Nevis, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and Bermuda as nations to have held their general elections in the COVID-19 era. St Vincent and the Grenadines will also go to the polls next month on November 5 and Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves’ Unity Labour Party is seeking a fifth consecutive term in office, while its rival New Democratic Party is being led into the national poll for the first time by lawyer, Dr Godwin Friday.
Among the 91 candidates vying for the 31 seats in the Belizean parliament are a handful of independents who have been nominated to contest the national polls. The ruling United Democratic Party (UDP) is seeking an unprecedented fourth consecutive term in office but is facing a stiff challenge from the main opposition People’s United Party (PUP).
Both parties have nominated candidates to contest all the seats in the Belizean parliament. Of two other smaller parties, the Belize Progressive Party has nominated eight candidates, including its leader, Patrick Rogers, while the Belize People’s Front is fielding 17 candidates.
The two main political parties will be led into the elections by new leaders, with the governing UDP’s Patrick Faber having taken over from Prime Minister Dean Barrow, who has resigned from active politics. The ruling UPD will also be without a number of its stalwarts, including Foreign Minister, Wilfred Peter ‘Sedi’ Elrington.
Faber, who is projecting a comfortable win, wrote on his Facebook page after being nominated, “Our great United Democratic Party has truly transformed Belize over the course of these past 12 years under Prime Minister Dean Barrow. I am excited, humbled and ready to lead through Belize as Prime Minister after a UDP victory on November 11.”
In the meantime, the People’s United Party (PUP) will be led by John Briceno, who is equally confident of winning and will be giving the ruling part “a run for its money”.
After being nominated, Briceno declared: “It is an exciting time, a lot of energy… the People’s United Party is untied and there is no organisation, no party in this country that can defeat a united People’s United Party.”
Belize’s last general elections, held on November 4, 2015, saw Prime Minister Barrow’s UDP winning a third consecutive term in office. The UDP took 19 of the 31 seats at stake, with the remaining 12 going to the PUP led then by Francis Fonseca.