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#498305 - 11/25/14 09:56 AM History! Mahmud Resigns House of Rep's
Marty Offline

Triggers Bi-Election

Tonight, political players in both mass parties are preparing for a surprise bi-election in Cayo North. That's after a most unexpected thing happened: the PUP's Cayo North Representative Joseph Mahmud abruptly resigned as a member of parliament. Now, he had already indicated he would not run again - but that was a month ago - and the understanding was that he would serve out his term. But all that changed today when he up and resigned.

That immediately puts his seat into a play and a bye-election must be held within 90 days to fill the vacant post. The UDP is rearing to go with its standard bearer Omar Figueroa who was elected in February. The PUP on the other hand has not found a new standard bearer since Mahmud indicated he would not run again.

Attorney Michel Chebat and businessman Richard Harrison have declared an interest in the division - but the party will now have to move swiftly to have a convention and elect or endorse someone.

Indeed, the opposition has been caught off guard because in mid-October Mahmud said that he would serve out his term and not seek re-election. But something happened between then and this morning at 11:00 am, when he resigned with immediate effect.

A release from the Clerk of the National Assembly says that the Speaker has accepted his resignation - and so now the countdown to a bye-election starts. 90 days from today would put us at Monday February 23, 2015 - and so the bye - election must be held by then. But it can be held before. In fact, it can be held within just 15 days. The trigger is that a writ of election will be issued by the Governor General - and after that an election must be held within 15 to 21 days.

So now we must all wait and see when that writ will be issued; it can happen immediately or it could happen in February.

But whatever the date, a voluntary resignation by a sitting member of the House is a huge, historic deal. We say that because there have only been two previous bye-elections in the post-independence era; and both were forced. The first was to replace Derek Aikman in Freetown was forced by him being declared a bankrupt; the second, in Cayo South was forced by the death of Agripino Cawich. Again, both forced by circumstance, but this one is voluntary and it is a resignation - suggesting that Mahmud has no goodwill for his party - which we are reliably informed was not told of his decision - and found out about it second hand.

So, overall, the timing would seem to put the UDP at an advantage in an area that has been historically red - and which Mahmud only won with a 51% majority in the 2012 general election.

But the PUP sent out a statement today saying that it will fast-track the process of selecting a new standard bearer and is confident that it can retain the seat.

For the UDP - information to us suggests that the party is eager for the opportunity to get a heat check before the municipal elections in March of next year.

Whatever the case, it would seem to be a win-win for the people of Cayo North who get to replace a lame duck representative and get to enjoy a sort of political festival for the weeks to come as both parties compete for their votes.

Channel 7


Bombshell: Mahmud resigns!

Since the Immigration scandal broke last year September, there have been calls for Elvin Penner, Cayo Northeast area representative of the ruling United Democratic Party, to resign from Parliament – a move which would be unprecedented in Belize’s parliamentary democracy. Although legally the provisions do exist for such a departure from electoral politics, it has never happened in Belize; that is, until this morning when the National Assembly received a resignation letter – although it was not Penner’s.

It was the sudden, bombshell farewell of the PUP’s Cayo North area rep, Joseph Mahmud, who had resigned as the PUP’s standard-bearer for that division last month but who had indicated that he would continue to serve until the general elections, scheduled for 2017. The unexpected resignation of Mahmud in the middle of his first term, and with immediate effect, is unparalleled in Belize’s electoral history.

In 1992, Derek Aikman, then Freetown rep for the UDP, was forced to resign due to having been declared bankrupt. In 1975, Vicente Choco crossed the floor from the UDP to the PUP, and in 1989, it was Stanley Usher who did the same, crossing from the UDP over to the PUP.

Today, there were also questions raised about whether the ruling United Democratic Party had somehow induced Mahmud to vacate his seat – or whether the internal turmoil which reportedly has been churning in the PUP’s Western Caucus was the trigger for Mahmud’s sudden departure from Parliament.

When we contacted Mahmud today, he told us that he was not ready to comment on the reason for his decision. He told us that he had been contemplating resigning “for a few weeks,” but he only today decided not to continue as the PUP area rep for Cayo North.

One source told us that Mahmud has had major differences with PUP Deputy Leader Julius Espat and felt that the party has not been able to get a handle on things. When we asked Espat about the allegation that he is a factor in Mahmud’s resignation, he told us that he is not so powerful to have caused the resignation—a resignation which means that a by-election could be forced by year-end.

The by-election to fill the Mahmud seat could be the political testing ground for the two dominant parties to gauge the temperature of voter confidence in their parties, leading up to the March 2015 municipal elections, as well as the 2017 general elections.

With Joseph Mahmud’s surprise resignation today, Espat said that the Opposition is now in “crisis mode” and they will very shortly decide how they will proceed to fill the political void which Mahmud has left in Cayo.

In the 2012 general elections, the PUP garnered two of six Cayo seats in a political face-off which resulted in a slim margin of victory for the ruling party of 17 to 14. With Mahmud’s departure, that seat could fall back into the hands of the UDP, which had won the seat back in 2008, held previously by the PUP’s Ainslie Leslie.

In February 2014, former UDP senator, Omar Figueroa, a jaguar researcher, was picked as the ruling party’s standard-bearer in that electoral division. He replaced UDP political veteran Salvador Fernandez, who had been beaten by Mahmud in 2012. Fernandez had won the Cayo North seat in three consecutive general elections – 1984, 1989, and 1993 – and again in 2008.

At the height of the immigration scandal surrounding UDP Cayo Northeast area representative Elvin Penner, political pundits did question whether that immigration scandal would have forced a by-election in Penner’s constituency, a by-election possibly causing the UDP to lose a House seat to the Opposition PUP. Many observers say that the ruling party has protected Penner at all costs because it cannot afford to lose a single seat in Parliament.

In the 2012 general elections, Mahmud beat UDP Salvador Fernandez by nearly 400 votes to emerge as the PUP’s area rep for Cayo North. He would have contested the 2017 general elections for the PUP, but just over a month ago Mahmud resigned as standard-bearer via a letter to his party.

PUP Opposition Leader Francis Fonseca told the media last month that Mahmud had resigned for “personal reasons,” but he did offer to help the party find a replacement. Fonseca was grateful that Mahmud had given the party enough time to allow them to find a replacement, and he had said on record last month that Mahmud intended to continue serving as the PUP’s area rep in Cayo North. Then, Fonseca had said that he was disappointed with Mahmud’s resignation as standard-bearer. We understand Mahmud’s resignation from the National Assembly today has shocked party executives who only received notification of his resignation after it had been submitted to Parliament.

An official release from the National Assembly this evening said that Mahmud had resigned at 11:00 this morning when he handed in his letter to Eddie Webster, the Clerk of the National Assembly. The Clerk then contacted the Speaker of the House, Michael Peyrefitte, who is attending ACP meetings in Strasbourg, France, and via e-mail Peyrefitte immediately accepted Mahmud’s resignation. Webster told us that Mahmud gave no reason for his resignation.

Even after the National Assembly announced that the Speaker of the House had accepted Mahmud’s resignation, Hon. Julius Espat told us, they (the PUP) had not been informed, but had heard otherwise, of Mahmud’s resignation.

This evening, Espat met in Belize City with PUP leader Francis Fonseca. Neither Francis Fonseca, the leader of the PUP, nor Henry Charles Usher, the party chairman, was consulted before Mahmud made his decision to resign from Parliament, Espat told us.

After his meeting with Fonseca, Espat told us that they remain optimistic, although they will have to hold emergency meetings of the PUP’s Western Caucus and the national executive in the days ahead to decide the way forward.

A late evening press release from the Opposition thanked Mahmud for his service to the PUP and to the people of Cayo North since March 2012, and wished him and his family all the best in their future endeavors.

It added that, “The Party is already in the process of selecting a new standard bearer for the Cayo North division. That process must now be fast-tracked given the Hon. Mahmud’s resignation from the National Assembly.”

The release concluded by expressing confidence that the Opposition “can retain this seat.”

The two reported contenders for the PUP in Cayo North are Michel Chebat, an attorney, and Richard Harrison, a businessman and a longstanding member of the party.

“This week, we will be meeting and we will be ready with a candidate as early as possible,” said Espat.

He said that the Prime Minister has the right to call the by-election for Cayo North within 90 days, but by law, that by-election can be held in as few as 30 days.

Espat conceded that the Opposition will face serious financing issues going into the by-election.

“We don’t have PetroCaribe, but in the past, both political parties have gone to elections with major war chests and have lost,” he said, citing the PUP’s defeat in 2008.

“The people make the difference,” he said.

He said that the upcoming elections will test the mood of the people, and they will know whether the PetroCaribe money has overwhelmed them or whether the people want good governance.

Amandala


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#498357 - 11/26/14 09:52 AM Re: History! Mahmud Resigns House of Rep's [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Hon. Fonseca Says The Blame Is On Mahmud

As we told you at the top of the news, there's going to be an election in January. That's in Cayo North - a division that went blue in the last election - but, right now it's up for grabs after the Area Representative Joseph Mahmud resigned yesterday.

The UDP hopes it can re-claim the seat which it controlled consistently up until 1998 - while the PUP is hoping to hold on in an area where they currently have no elected standard bearer. Making it harder for the PUP is the fact that the outgoing standard bearer Joseph Mahmud will clearly not help his successor, whoever that will be. How do we know that? Well, he didn't tell his party leader he was resigning, and the party leader says that he didn't even tell his committee. At a press briefing at Independence Hall this morning, Opposition Leader Fonseca admitted to being caught off guard:..

Jules Vasquez
"Is it something that you might have expected or were you caught off guard?"

Hon. Francis Fonseca, Leader of the Opposition
"Yes I would say that I was not anticipating that that would happen. If it were to happen I thought it would may have happen later on and not so quickly."

Jules Vasquez
"I am told that he felt somewhat disrespected by yourself in various exchanges and that after he inform the party of his resignation as standard bearer, that he felt you all didn't even reach out to him."

Hon. Francis Fonseca, Leader of the Opposition
"I absolutely cannot point to any incident, any evidence - there is no evidence to support such a suggestion that I have disrespected Mr. Mahmud."

Reporter
"One of the reasons why Mahmud did what he did was because he had come to you and brought to you several complaints about the Western Caucus, particularly Mr. Julius Espat who heads the Western Caucus and that you have address none of his concerns, none of his complaints and it was a mere frustration - a move out of frustration because you haven't address concerns. This hasn't come directly from him, but from people around him."

Hon. Francis Fonseca, Leader of the Opposition
"Yeah, I think I responded to that in a sense earlier. I've had many discussions with Mr. Mahmud, if you get frustrated because I don't do what you want me to do - that can't be my problem. The issue of adjustment of the Western Caucus, the structure of the Western Caucus was something I discussed at length with Mr. Mahmud. He was the chairman at the time, I discussed at length with him and I made it clear to him that I felt that moving in this direction was in the best interest of the party and of him because he felt overwhelm as an area representative and I though he needed to focus his attention and efforts on his work as an area representative, so I believe I have always been very fair, very open with Mr. Mahmud. So I can't account for his frustration. I made it very clear to Mr. Mahmud at the time that he stepped down as standard bearer, that this is serious business. I take the work of this party very seriously and when we make decisions we have deal with the consequences of those decisions. I made it very clear to him, once you make the decision that you are not going to seek re-election, the party will move forward, I will move forward and in fact that is where we are today moving forward. Yes disappointed that Mr. Mahmud had resign from the national assembly and I think his decision to do so, let me make it clear, his decision to do so without consulting the party, without informing the party, without informing his executive in Cayo North, I think reflects poorly on him and I view that as disrespectful to the party."

Geovannie Brackett, reporter
"You think that he is a traitor, you think that he was bought out?"

Hon. Francis Fonseca, Leader of the Opposition
"I am not in a position at all to make any such suggestion at all. I am certainly not prepared to go there at all."

Reporter
"They are stating all sorts of things that the party is falling apart, that it reflects on your leadership. Are you concerned at all in terms of the perception out there because of this resignation, particularly because he didn't inform you?"

Hon. Francis Fonseca, Leader of the Opposition
"Everything that happens in the People's United Party reflects on the leader and reflects on the state of the party, so yes we would not have wanted Mr. Mahmud to resign. I wanted him to serve out his term with integrity and dignity and working on behalf of the people of Cayo North as best as possible given the challenges, but he made a decision, I've already said that I feel that that decision he made reflects poorly on him and that's where I think it stands - it reflects poorly on him. I don't think it reflects poorly on us as a party."

And so while Fonseca has, rightly or wrongly, transferred the shame and blame to Mahmud - the truth is, he's out of the picture - and he has no election to win or lose. Right now, the pressure is on the PUP to hold unto Cayo North - and as we've clearly laid out, it will be a challenge. First off, the party has no candidate in place - but it does have two eager aspirants, Attorney Michel Chebat and businessman Richard Harrison. Fonseca discussed their chances this morning:..

Hon. Francis Fonseca, Leader of the Opposition
"And the party will now fast track that process of selecting a candidate. Later this week we will have a national executive meeting of the People's United Party and how we proceed in Cayo North will be a major topic for discussion and deliberation and decision exactly how we will proceed, but we are preparing for and anticipating obviously a very early election - that is to the advantage of the United Democratic Party and through to form, they will exploit every advantage that they have. So we have to look forward to a very early election, probably very early in January. And yes we have no choice but to be prepared. We have to be prepared. As I am very optimistic, I am very hopeful because we have very good candidates. We lost a candidate, but out of crisis, out of challenge comes opportunity sometimes and this is how I view it. We have an opportunity now to replace Mr. Mahmud with candidates who are certainly, equally good, some would say, better candidates, but we have an opportunity to do that - to offer to the people of Cayo North very good credible, quality candidates."

Jules Vasquez
"Will the party prevail upon one of the candidates and encourage them to stand because there is just no time for a convention or money?"

Hon. Francis Fonseca, Leader of the Opposition
"Yeah, you are obviously a political strategist Jules, you've learnt a lot over the years from being around the political parties - yes that's an option. I think certainly an option, but that is the purpose of us having a meeting later this week to discuss all those options, to discuss the best way forward as I said, but that certainly has to be on the table. Absolutely has to be on the table. Is it in our best interest to simply endorse one of the two candidates who have applied and move forward with that candidate, given the urgency and the time, the very short timeframe that exist. And then we have to engage in a very intensive 4-5-6 week's campaign in Cayo North. We will never be able to challenge the UDP when it comes to money, they are rolling in serious money as you know, but we have to put up a very strong, spirited campaign."

And even though that press conference was held before the by-election date was announced, he did have his timing just about right - it will be a 7 week campaign - that's if you start today - which the UDP did. Party leader Dean Barrow has deployed key ministers and their available resources to Cayo North -where voters can expect to be showered with Petrocaribe goodies between now and the election.

Hon. Espat Deflects Blame For Mahmud Departure

As you heard, the PUP will also be moving shortly to name a candidate, but first it has to do some house-keeping. The historic Mahmud resignation is like a body blow - and the political subtext is that the first blow against Mahmud was thrown by Deputy Leader for the West, Julius Espat.

Ever since the 2012 election, he and Mahmud have been jostling for control of the west: Mahmud was chair of the Western Caucus, and Espat the Deputy for the West. Mahmud's supporters say he was eventually boxed out of that position as Chairman - and that was through the calculation of Julius Espat.

Now, that is only one side of the story. Today, in Belmopan we got the other, when Espat answered the media's questions about the perceived tension between him and Mahmud.

Reporter
"Sir, would you say it was irresponsible for him not to notify the party and the party leader?"

Hon. Julius Espat, PUP Western Caucus
"I think it was a disrespect for not informing the party yes, especially the party leader. That's a personal look at it. It's like your wife divorce you and you don't know. It's a temporary crisis mode, we are dealing with it as professional and that we have to. But that we are scared? No. That we are hunkering down and bringing our troops together? Yes. Maybe it's positive. It highlights the fact it will not be an easy task ahead of us. As far as I can tell you we don't have any tensions. We have differences in opinion and that we have many differences in opinion within the party - its a political party and I think that makes it healthy."

Daniel Ortiz
"Our information says it went a bit further than just a differences of opinion. We understood that you are the direct reason as to why he exited the party."

Hon. Julius Espat, PUP Western Caucus
"How can that be? A decision like this is not about me. A decision like this is about not serving the people that you represent and I think that's where politicians tend to misunderstand the concept of why they are there. I will not allow any person to intimidate me or to force me to do something that is contrary to my people which the people of Cayo South, to me it's an honor to serve them and it is an honor to defend them and so a decision like this cannot be made by just a difference of opinion between a colleague. It has to be more than that."

Daniel Ortiz
"Was there a jostling for power between you and Mr. Mahmud?"

Hon. Julius Espat, PUP Western Caucus
"There is no jostling for power, it's a matter of putting in the work. We have a responsibility. As the Deputy Party Leader of the Western Caucus, my responsibility is to oversee all the constituencies. At that time he was the chairman of the Western Caucus which is an administrative post and there are two different roles to play and so I don't see where the conflict arises."

Daniel Ortiz
"When he made this announcement at the beginning that he would not offer himself for the next general election, you spoke to us saying I wish him the best in is endeavors. To those of us, that could be taken as he being left out in the cold - go your own way."

Hon. Julius Espat, PUP Western Caucus
"But what else you want me to say?"

Daniel Ortiz
"Shouldn't you have reached out to try to keep him in the PUP family?"

Hon. Julius Espat, PUP Western Caucus
"It's not a decision for me to make. You see, if you want to be a part of us, then you are welcome to work as a part of us. If you make a decision that you don't want to be a part of us, nobody can force you to do otherwise. We have had people that have spoken to him in the past and they have done everything in their wisdom or their efforts to try and it has not worked out, but I insist guys, why don't you ask him, he is the one that resign. He is the one that is not here with us. He is the one that has decided not to represent the people of Cayo North. He is the one that needs to answer the questions."

Of course, the one person we have not heard from in all of this is Joseph Mahmud. Everyone's talking about him, but he hasn't said a word - which, has been his style, he very, very rarely talks to the media - and when he does, we get the sense that….he'd rather spend an evening with Julius Espat.

But he did issue a statement addressed to the residents and voters of Cayo North this evening. It says, quote, "I'm deeply sorry that I has to give up being your elected representative. Due to personal reasons I must make this decision and return to private life."

He adds, "everything I have done in my area and for you the people I did it on my own and from my heart without prejudice." End quote.

It's a quite melancholy statement - and it says nothing about the PUP, nor does he urge his former voters to support any party.

Channel 7


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