REPORT #613 February 2003

By Ray Auxillou/ Belize Development Trust

The voter of course will decide the type of government for the next five years in this national election on March 5th, about two weeks away.

From my political research and travels around the country, I have come to the conclusion there are two choices facing the voting population of Belize in this election. On the one hand, is the old traditional style of Padron, or Jefe, strong authoritarian leader type government, which is being touted as the solution for the voters of Belize by Opposition Leader, Dean Barrow a port city lawyer and another city lawyer, Said Musa the leader of the incumbent party the PUP. Along with these two big shots and two organized political machines are six Independent candidates who also seem to favor the strong leader/authoritarian style of governing? The country of Belize has never ever known any other kind of governing system and so one could call this the traditional method. In which, in return for voting for a party block of candidates, they promise to coddle and look after you during the five years in office. In return for which, you are being asked as a Belizean voter to give them the Keys to the Treasury, worth $400 million a year and the blank cheque Credit Card of the government which seems to be worth a $1.5 billion over five years. Traditionally, many voters in Belize City and the rural districts, particularly the illiterate, the poverty ridden and other seemingly disenfranchised voters seem comfortable with this arrangement. It amazes me how many of the poorer class think this is the only way to govern a country. While they complain about injustice and corruption, they do not want to apparently change the modus operendi of running the government. They actually like being able to go to an elected Minister and ask his or her favor and intervention, to get a permit, or license, or a piece of land. Which intellectuals call patronage.

For the first time in the entire short history of Belize the nation, a third choice is being given by 11 WTP Independent candidates running on a political reform platform. The leader being Francis Gegg, a businessman of Belize City, the Fort George division. This group of WTP, have enough members to establish a government, only if they win a landslide endorsement from the voters in the eleven divisions that they run in. Should only a portion get in office, then any hope of establishing a consensual participatory democratic governing model, versus the traditional PADRON authoritarian favor granting model will be ended.

Political Scientists of course know that the only model that will bring widespread wealth to the population of Belize and boost the GDP and automatically give social welfare through community self help, bootstrap economic development is the latter third choice offered by Francis Gegg and his fellow WTP Independents. The former traditional historical model of a one party run autocratic system is fraught with corruption and only produces mediocre and even worse economic performance and usually in this model the poverty numbers actually grow.

To an intellectual like myself it seems incredible that people could even consider voting for the traditional authoritarian model under a Jefe, or Padron like we have had for many decades. Yet, incredible or not, there is a huge poor section of the population who vote. They are wooed with songs, fiestas, vote buying and promises of every dream under the sun by the traditional corrupt politicians. Yet many of them realize and understand this, but are afraid of experimenting with the proven consensual participatory democractic model through apathy, inertia and perhaps because it is new and different. I am not going to be surprised at all, if Dean Barrow, or Said Musa get in to run the government again. Disappointed yes, but surprised no. Most people simple do not comprehend the differences the two governing models make in their personal lives and economic future.

Belize at the end of the day on March 5th, will choose voluntarily and of their own free will; wealth, economic independence, and a bright future, or mediocricity and more of the same round of corruption and persecutions. The result is going to be eagerly watched by many outside academics. But bottom line; I think we shouldn't expect the majority of illiterate and poverty ridden masses to vote any other than the traditional. They are fearful and afraid and to them it fits like an old shoe, a comfortable role with which they are familiar.

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