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#328257 - 03/14/09 01:27 AM I see dead people
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PUP Backsliding Into Political Abyss?

It happened just last week, but it seems that the municipal election is all but a memory – and that’s probably because of the finality of the results which show that - in all but one municipality - it wasn’t even close. And while it was a disappointing result for the PUP, most seasoned observers agree, that sort of thing is to be expected when a party is rebuilding from it worst loss ever.

But is it rebuilding really? Or is Belize’s grand old party backsliding into a political abyss? We’ve been having a closer look at the results – and it shows John Briceno’s PUP losing critical ground in key areas.

First, in Belize City, the PUP gained only a marginal .2 percentage points between the municipal election of 2006 and 2009.

* That’s a gain of maybe 100 voters, nothing really, but more importantly, the results show the party losing ground in the city since the general election, a full two percentage points – in a year of governance when the UDP has definitely not become more popular.
* Also notable is that the PUP city slate was unable to energize the electorate or harness anti government sentiment – even with all the Moya scandals: in 2009 almost fourteen thousand fewer voters came out to support the PUP in Belize City than did in 2006.

And the results were worse in the Capital City, where the PUP was relegated to third party status, garnering only 22.1% of the votes, compared to the VIP’s 22.3%. A stunning result for the City that George Price built.

In the Santa Elena and San Ignacio, the PUP also flirted with third.

* Though there was no third party putting up a slate in the twin town – there was a strong independent candidate running for Mayor, former UDP Mayor, Alfonso Ponchis Cruz and he got 263 more votes than the PUP candidate for Mayor, who came in third.
* And the total percentage of support for the PUP slate in that town was also down more than 15% from 2006.

And while that San Ignacio swing was among the greatest in last week’s election, look a little further west, and you’ll see that the PUP has all but faded away.

* In Benque Viejo Town, the PUP’s support in 2006 was a close 48%; it fell dramatically by 25 percentage points to 23%.

And while the far west was rough for the PUP, the deep south was also deeply disappointing.

* The PUP also experienced a precipitous slide in Punta Gorda Town where they got 46.35% of the vote in 2006 compared to 37.85% in 2009 – while also losing the mayorship and a councillor’s seat.
* In Dangriga the PUP did gain slightly between 2006 and 2009, but again lost ground from the 41% support it had in the 2008 election.

And in San Pedro, the island is anything but a paradise for the PUP where the party got 40.95% of the vote in 2006;

* that slipped to 36% in the general and then went down further to 34% in the municipal. We note that the division Belize Rural South includes Caye Caulker, but the town does not.

And that schism between divisions and town limits also slightly muddles the picture in Orange Walk – the home base of the PUP party leader – where his area, Orange Walk Central combines with Orange Walk East to form the town’s voting population.

* The numbers show that the PUP did gain a shade shy of four percentage points between 2006 and 2009 – good enough, but still not enough to gain control of the town council, particularly when anti government sentiment in that town should have been at a fever pitch fuelled by the sugar riots which happened just weeks earlier and were much dramatized on Briceno’s radio and television outlets.

But even if Briceno takes some slender consolation in the three councillor seats the PUP did win in Orange Walk, the overall picture is very discouraging: The PUP has fallen from 54.7% of the popular vote in the Municipal Elections in 2003, to 39.9% in 2006 and now to 37% in 2009. Now if in 2006, Said Musa was at the height of his unpopularity and the voters wanted to send him and the PUP a clear message, what does 2009 mean for Briceno?

And if you look at the result of the election in the 21 divisions that cover towns –with note made of the discrepancy that is created by those few villages that fall outside the towns – the PUP’s support went from 40.1% in the General election to 37% in this election. And that opens up to what may be the most remarkable statistic: since 1961, no party had gotten more than 60% of the popular vote; last week Wednesday, the UDP got 60.7%.

And that kind of dominance at the polls has stirred a collective shudder within the PUP which must now confront the very real prospect of sliding into a long night of defeat. For Belize’s winningest party, this has caused consternation at the highest levels, and there is talk of two things, possible rapprochement between the old and new guards and the possibility of a leadership challenge.

In this regard, Godfrey Smith, the defeated campaign manager for leader-aspirant Francis Fonseca in the 2008 special convention today predicted in his online column Flashpoint (click for full column) that the seeds for quote, “a full-blown leadership challenge” are already being sown. In this regard, it is of note that at today’s pre-debate parliamentary caucus for the PUP, we are reliably informed that neither deputy Mark Espat nor Cordel Hyde were present.

Live and let live

#328258 - 03/14/09 01:30 AM Re: I see dead people [Re: Short]
Short Offline
The Reckoning

“I see dead people”

The March 4th 2009 municipal election was but an opening act, a pre-game show watched excitedly by the uninitiated in the great game of politics; but, ultimately, a mere prelude to the real game ahead. The pre-game held no surprises; its ending was already known. The trouble is that where the real game is played no tickets are sold. And if tickets were sold, there’s no guarantee of seeing the game – even if played an arm’s length away. If the players were pointed out, the game might still not be understood because of the rules which can be ignored or changed at any time, without notice, by any of the players. The game has a beginning but no ending. Players enter or leave at any time. There are complex games within the game. Most frustrating is that a player can be running flat out in the game, doing the best for his team and still be politically dead in the game. Teammates will seldom tell another that he’s dead. They might not even recognize that he is dead. But he is.

Take the case of the recently sacked Minister of Culture. He was a professional; among the most qualified elected to the House of Representatives on February 7th 2008. He was a first string player in the great game of politics, selected to be among the starting lineup of the Cabinet of Ministers. He started playing the game as he understood the rules: ministers gave instructions, subordinates executed. But his team captain had changed the rules. He hadn’t quite spelled out that he was changing the rules, but it was clear that the rules had been altered – at least to the initiated.

New rules, old friendships
Under the new rules, ministers gave instructions and subordinates decided whether or not to execute them, or checked first with the team captain. If a player didn’t understand this, he could be embarrassed in front of his constituency fans. This happened to the young minister. He waited to pay back the subordinate who was the source of his embarrassment. His opportunity came when she signed a contract in disregard for the transparency rules of the game that had been re-introduced by his team. The recently defeated old team had indefinitely suspended the transparency rules.

The minister seized the chance to execute a power play and put himself on the scoreboard by way of slam dunk. He publicly “outed” his subordinate. He fired her. But the political points he scored were immediately disallowed, taken off the scoreboard. Under the old rules, fired subordinates stayed fired. But those rules were changed. The subordinate was unfired. The transparency rule still applied. But not to a first, secret contract. Or at least not to subordinates that are old friends of the team captain.

Under these shape-shifting rules, subordinates could actually “sub” for ministers. The young minister remained in the starting lineup and continued playing the game. But from that moment, he was dead. He looked like he was still playing for his team but in reality he was playing for the opposing team. Some of his teammates saw that he was playing for the opposing team but didn’t bother to tell him anything since he was dead.

The young erstwhile minister should not despair. There can still be life after dead reckoning. In the great game of politics, the dead are sometimes resurrected. But it is the exception. This is because the dead refuse to accept that they are dead and try to keep playing the game. In the minister’s case, fantasies of orgiastic reprisals against his team captain, who is on top of his game right now, would be to cut off any hope of resurrection. Better to stay dead; or play dead by accepting the substitution, staying on the backbenches, and biding time.

Hopeless expectation
Then take the case of the leader of the opposition. He played hard in the pre-game, applying considerable resources and energy. He had no choice, his position required him to. But it was a pre-game that he couldn’t win. The stats from the game archives showed that no team could, in the space of a year, come back from such a devastating blowout and actually win. His strategy in the pre-game was the conventional, inside-the-box one of talking to win, playing to win and eventually believing that there could be a win, at least in some districts.

His game strategy should have been to adopt the stance of an experienced player who did not expect to win the first game. He should have used the free publicity offered by the buildup to the game to demonstrate that he knew the game well. That he knew reconstructing a party and winning takes longer than a year and that he was building a formidable team with a strategic game plan to a win at the next election. He had, after all, a good scapegoat. The poison of the old guard, he could have said, had still not been flushed from the political veins of voters.

Instead it came across that he was trying hard, at least on his home ground. The loss, expected as it was, deflated those who might have been caught up in the artificially created enthusiasm and inevitably led to questions about leadership. By feeding hopeless expectation he sowed the seeds for questions about his own leadership. These seeds, now being fed with industrial strength fertilizer, will take root and rapidly grow into a full-blown leadership challenge.

Having adopted the strategy that he did, the leader of the opposition felt obliged to deny that his team, under new leadership and management, had actually lost political ground.

The question now is whether he has the energy, focus and a game plan to play and win in the leadership game. The leadership game underway didn’t just begin; it began about five years ago. In this game, a team doesn’t play an opposing team, it plays against itself. Some players in that game don’t expend any energy on low-stakes pre-games; they save it for the big game.

Between the devil and the old guard
In the contest that brought him leadership of his party, the leader of the opposition beat his opponent by a paper thin majority of 20 plus votes. He had secured the support of the third aspirant by promising him the deputyship of the party. But it was a Faustian pact that will be reckoned soon. The new deputy, aggressive and uncompromising, drove a wedge between the new leadership and the old guard. Any rapprochement with the old guard was branded as “business as usual” and attacked in quarters of the media he influenced.

The new leader badly needed distance from the radioactive old guard. But at the same time the old guard controlled and influenced a handful of constituencies that could be critical in a leadership challenge mounted by an unabashed and unbridled aspirant. The obvious solution was the age-old technique of creating a “back channel”. A senior representative of the old guard and a senior representative of the new would work the back channel to arrive at détente while giving the new leader deniability. Instead, relations curdled.

The leader of the opposition’s fate is sealed. He is enveloped in that vulnerability that slowly, mistily surfaces when an unproven leader loses his first political test without doing the groundwork to dissipate the mist. If he tries to make peace with the old guard now after his defeat in the municipals, he will be seen as desperate; capitulating to the old guard to save himself at the expense of the party. If he doesn’t, his nemesis will himself hold out an olive branch to the old guard – which he’s doing already. His nemesis understands the game much better than he does. And he’s not afraid to play it. He understands that it is a game in which you can break all the rules until you can make them yourself. The leader cannot now, in his moment of vulnerability, go after his nemesis. It is too late. He waited too long, repeating the mistake of his predecessor. The outcome of this game is already known. But it will be hellishly interesting to watch.


Edited by Short (03/14/09 01:35 AM)
Edit Reason: The link does not seem to be working properly; I tested it, and just copy and paste it in your browser address bar.
Live and let live

#329317 - 03/20/09 09:43 AM Re: I see dead people [Re: Short]
Marty Online   happy
wow quite an article...


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