PUP's Nomination Day Parade, Better, But Not The Best
After being outdone in terms of numbers, energy and mass appeal on the city council nomination day - the PUP had the pressure on them to make a recovery today for the general election nomination.
And, to a fair degree, they did. Indeed, they weren't the PUP of 1998 which rolled like a tremendous machine - but the numbers put out were meant to show that the party - while it may not be as well funded as the good old days - can still walk with some swagger in the city.
Here's how they looked:
Jules Vasquez Reporting
The old blue and white was aloft this morning as the PUP started their rally with some speeches to pump up a good sized crowd, and the support should have been there - all 10 seats in the city had their supporters out.
Today they did have live music and that frenzied carnival atmosphere.
From a distance, above on Vernon Street - with the crowd stripped of its charge - the lead group seemed smaller, but up close it still had a carnival atmosphere.
Taken in its entirety - the crowd was significantly larger than what the PUP had on Wednesday - maybe three times as large.
On Mahogany Street, Fonseca walked with his family - not glad handing and waving, but that is not his style.
When they curled into the administration building it was around 11:00, and the formidable length of the procession was apparent - with some still left to arrive.
Francis Fonseca - Party Leader, PUP
"We are very encouraged by the turn-out, and across the country, I can tell you the reports I've been getting from other standard bearers in all other districts are that, similarly, people have come out in large numbers to support our candidates. And we are very encouraged by that, and I think it's a representation of the fact that our constituencies are in fact organized and that we are working with our people."
The crush at the gate was furious as the candidates and their six nominees each tried to get in - away from the swarm of supporters.
The endorsers - registered electors in the relevant divisions - were there to sign on the line and nominate their candidates.
Rt. Hon. Said Musa - PUP Candidate for Fort George, 8th Nomination
"You know, when I woke up this morning, I thought that it would have been just another day for me, as you said, because I've been through this thing so many times. But somehow, when you see the crowds of the people - when you feel the energy - I get pumped up too, and it's right there again, back in the swing of things."
Dr Francis Smith - PUP Candidate for Pickstock
"I am accustomed to facing challenges. I worked at the Karl Heusner for many years without resources. So this is absolutely nothing new; I like challenges, and as the saying goes, when things get rough, the tough gets going, and I am tough. Poor people have understanding; they know I don't have money, but they know that I have love, and I feel extremely appreciative of the turn-out today, especially in my division because I cannot match that $40,000 Christmas money, plus $50,000 in January. That's $90,000 to give away, Jules, so I cannot match it, and they understand that. What I am feeling is simply that the tide is coming in for us, the PUP, and my faith is that the tide is the people. So, I really believe that the PUP ships are afloat, and the people will take us to victory."
Phillip Palacio - PUP Candidate for Mesopotamia
"Basically, this election - no matter how it goes in Mesopotamia - will be a transition. I'm going to take over any way, so I'm asking the people - better earlier now, than later."
"You mean that Mr Finnegan will step aside."
"Yes, Finnegan is going to come out, and I am going to be the area representative in there anyway. So, just give me the run now; if it's going to be now, it's going to be later."
"How hard is it going up in a division that is considered such a safe seat, and in terms of Mr Finnegan has developed - over all those 20 years you've spoken about - a personal relationship with the voters?"
"Incredibly difficult, Jules; I won't underestimate what the difficulty is."
"How hard is it for you going up against a). an unbeaten incumbent and b). the Prime Minister of Belize who has an array of resources at his disposal?"
Anthony Sylvester - PUP Candidate, Queen's Square
"Well, Jules, rather than looking at it from that perspective, I look at it from the positive perspective. The prime minister has been the representative of Queen Square for over 28 years, and as you go about in the division, as you canvass, and you talk to the residents of the division - even some of his - I would call - strongest supporters - they're very much displeased and dissatisfied. I feel hopeful; this is life, whenever you feel as though there is no reason to have hope, then what takes place is what we see in at large right now. There is a lot of hopelessness."
David Craig - PUP Candidate, Albert
"It's a very steep learning curve; it's almost vertical for me coming in two weeks, but, you know what, the people of Albert have responded. I have a very strong community with me. We are not small; we are not doing things in the traditional strategic way by putting huge numbers out there on the street and putting everything on every lamp post. What we are doing, is every second of the day, we are strategizing and getting into people's homes. And we know that we can't get into 3300 - to see 3300 people. So what we've been doing, Jules, we've been bringing people to us. I formed my own committee, but let me tell you this: Mark's people have been helping us. Mark's people have been helping us every step of the way, if not out-rightly so, every step of the way, they've been pushing for us, and I'm grateful for them. I'll be forever grateful because they are blue. They are blue in their hearts. Having grown up in the Price family, and having been steeped in the policies of the People's United Party that brought this country to where it is right now, something had to have stuck with me."
"How do you respond to the UDP's version that you are in fact a vulnerable seat?"
Francis Fonseca - PUP Party Leader/Candidate for Freetown
"I think that's a fantasy world indeed. No, I don't feel at all vulnerable in Freetown. I have always said that Freetown is always a fight. I don't consider it a safe seat for the People's United Party. That is not the approach I take to Freetown. My approach is one in which we have to focus on our relationship with the people. I have a relationship with the people for the past 10 years. I think that it's a strong relationship. We survived the red tide last time - barely - as you know. But we survived the red tide. I feel very confident, Jules, that when the votes are counted on March 7, we will deliver another victory for the People's United Party in Freetown."
And while the PUP may be safe in Freetown - it's clear that even if the party showed some of its old flash and muscle tone - it's not the buff political presence that dominated in 1998 - which is the last time they swept the UDP out of office:
"The PUP at this time doesn't seem to have the muscle, the machinery and the money that was associated with it when you were leader in 1998.
"Yes, there is now doubt that the ruling party today, the UDP, has outspent the PUP by - I would say - at least 6 to 1 in this election. And there is no doubt that we don't have the resources as a party that the UDP has. There is no doubt that the Government has been using government resources, like $90,000 to each standard bearer."
"If you had to call the election now, how would you call it?"
"I would say that it's going to be a close election - very close. It's going to be close but I feel that - and I'm being very sincere with you - I believe that over the past month, despite the setbacks we've had with people stepping down and all that, the PUP has been gaining a certain momentum. And if we can sustain this momentum now right through to Election Day, PUP will win."
"If the PUP were to lose, will it still be your fault? A lot of people have said that the state of disarray -"
"I don't mind when they blame Said Musa, you know, because we have a new leader. Francis Fonseca will be the next prime minister of Belize. I can take all the heat."
UDP Marched "Like A Tremendous Machine"
And while Musa is still willing to take the blame, UDP Party Leader Dean Barrow is ready to take all the credit for an unprecedentedly large showing by his party today.
In terms of a non-national event - concentrated to only city-based supporters - we haven't seen anything quite like what the UDP rolled out today.
But we wondered, is it a function of genuine popularity or money politics taken to another level?
That's what we asked party leader Dean Barrow:
Jules Vasquez Reporting
Dean Barrow - Party Leader, UDP
"This is the greatest display that I have seen all my years of politics on a any nomination day."
Indeed, the UDP crowd is the biggest we have seen for any nomination day parade - it extended from the junction of Vernon Street and Central American Boulevard right up to the Belchina bridge - as their supporters kept saying, a sea of red.
Each of the city's ten divisions had its own crowd, it's own box or band, and its own steam - from above we'd put the crowd in the range of two thousand because, while some divisions had about 100 supporters, some of them also had four hundred - some even had two different sets of crowds.
The crowd visibly throbbed from above, but on the ground, it was wild - like the atmosphere of Carnival, 10th and 21st all wrapped into one red blanket.
Party Leader Dean Barrow led the way high-stepping with his faithful supporters.
"I have to feel that this is, without a doubt, a huge victory with perhaps even bigger numbers than last time."
"But is this indicative of electoral progress, is it indicative of just money?"
"No, I think that it is without a doubt indicative of of electoral progress. People on the sidelines are enthusiastic; there is spontaneous support for the UDP."
"What accounts for this unprecedented show today?"
Patrick Faber - UDP Party Chairman, Collet Candidate
"Hard work, Jules, we have been organizing this party for elections for at least the last - I'd say - 15 months or so."
"how much of it is a function of the fact that the UDP is a wealthy, resourced party. These people won't come out here for free."
"I don't know where you get that from, you know. The UDP has been a party for the people. The people of Collet - for instance - know that their representative has been there for them, and that's why they are out here today. You know that they can rely on Patrick Faber and the UDP for another 5 years, and we will be there for the people. So this isn't a rent-a-crowd, Jules. This is support based on the fact that the United Democratic Party is a party for the people."
Anthony "Boots" Martinez went down to the pavement for his people and even did a dance with his opponent from 2008 Oscar Rosado - whose on the right side of your picture, who not only danced with Martinez, he also nominated him:
Anthony Boots Martinez - UDP Candidate Port Loyola
"My former opponent is one of the endorsers of my nomination today."
"What is this crowd indicative of? Sometimes people think that maybe the UDP is the 'gouty man'. UDP has the money right now, so people will come out with them."
Anthony "Boots" Martinez
"You can interview people out here and see if they are collecting anything. This is all about love; this is all about 4 years of hard work. This is about the fruits of labor."
"I spoke to Mr. Fonseca this morning. He said that it's an electoral fantasy.There is no way you can win in Freetown."
Lee Mark Chang - UDP Candidate, Freetown
"Freetown deserves the best, and Freetown will choose the best best candidate to lead Freetown."
"But he can be Prime Minister, and they want to vote for a Prime Minister."
Lee Mark Chang
"If he wanted to be Prime Minister, he would have started working a long time. That man is doing nothing, and he does not deserve to represent Freetown."
"I spoke to your opponent this morning, and he said that what he is telling voters is that it's better that they vote for him from now because you will not stay in office. You will win and then step down."
Michael Finnegan - UDP Candidate, Mesopotamia
"Poor little fellow; he is a poor little fellow."
"From what you've seen on nomination days, how does crowd compare?"
"Let me tell you the truth. Whoever brings out the crowd on nomination day wins the general election."
"Before, you've told me that you see Jan canoe dances than this. That was what you told me when PUP used to bring the crowd."
"Whoever brings out the biggest crowd, wins the general election."
And Faber was brought to the nomination office on the shoulders of his supporters - the kind of gesture that gives the UDP a feeling of supreme confidence and being comfortably at ease going into the March 7th election.
"The UDP will win massively in Belize City, and the UDP will win comfortably throughout the country."
"What kind of victory numerically?"
"I don't see us winning less than 20 seats."
So what's the bottom line on the crowds? Well, the UDP one was definitely larger, but it's hard to have a precise figure because of the number of vehicles in the way. But, judging based on the time it took for the procession to pass an area and its general mass, we'd say the UDP had about two and half times the crowd of the PUP, with the PUP having between 750 to one thousand, and the UDP having about 1,750 to two thousand.
The UDP is reporting large crowds in a number of areas, but one that caught our eye was in Orange Walk - where the Deputy Prime Minister Gapi Vega seems to have outdone his boss, the PM. As we showed you on Wednesday, Party Leader Dean Barrow went out in front of the parade and greeted voters. Well Gaspar Vega did the same thing, except he ran! For the entire length of his procession! Whether he was trying to re-enact a scene from Rocky - we don't know, but we can say that he definitely got the workout of the day running about one and a half miles from the park in Trial Farm to the nomination station in town.