There will be an uncontested new PUP leader, and it is Francis Fonseca. The Freetown Area representative was endorsed at a meeting of the party's National Executive in Belize City this morning.

Yesterday evening when we told you of the three candidates for leader: Arthur Saldivar, Mike Espat and Julius Espat, Fonseca was not in the picture at all.

Best information suggests that's why party chairman Henry Usher held off on naming names when he spoke to the press yesterday - because Fonseca was likely still being courted and coaxed to take the post - after all, as we reported on Tuesday - he was the only logical choice after Mark Espat turned it down.

But, defying conventional wisdom and his own historical tendencies, Fonseca held out. Ultimately though, it was just a question of somebody pushing the right buttons - and today he told the press it was the elders of the Price family who cajoled him into it. We found that out at a meeting of the Party's National Executive, the third in two weeks. We begin our story at the start of that meeting:..

Jules Vasquez Reporting
Executive members started arriving from before 10:00, Said Musa and others from all over the country - the head of the southern caucus and the northern caucus.

Francis Fonseca walked in unassumingly, but notably absent were the other senior deputies Mark Espat and Cordel Hyde and aspirant for leader Arthur Saldivar.

The meeting was over in an hour - and no one wanted to speak to the media - not even the man who told us yesterday he was offering himself for leader.

Jules Vasquez
"Mr. Espat will you be running for leader?"

Julius Espat, Party Treasurer
"I have instructions from the Executive that we should not comment anything to the media."

Or the man seeking to be leader of the opposition in the House:

Jules Vasquez
"Mr. Musa will be Leader of the Opposition in the House?"

Rt. Hon. Said Musa, former Party Leader
"The Party Chairman will speak to you."

Around noon, the chairman did come down:

Henry Charles Usher, Chairman PUP
"Yesterday we receive more than one application for the position of Party Leader. We receive applications, nominations and acceptances from Arthur Saldivar, Julius Espat, Mike Espat and Hon, Francis Fonseca. Today at the National Executive and Standard Bearers meeting (joint meeting) those 3 persons; Julius Espat, Mike Espat and the representative for Arthur Saldivar Maxwell have all told the National Executive that their candidacies are withdrawn. That leaves only one candidate for party leader the Hon. Francis Fonseca. We are keeping to the timeline set by the National Executive last week. We will have a national party council on the 29th October, that's next week Saturday at which time we will endorse Hon. Francis Fonseca as Party Leader of the People's United Party. A new day is dawning Jules. The People's United Party is together and we are moving forward and under Francis we will deliver a victory for the people of this country."

Fonseca wasn't quite so bold, he accepted that it will be toiugh going and that it was a difficult decision:

Hon. Francis Fonseca, Executive Endorsement PUP Leader
"It was important for me to step up. It won't be easy, you all know that, that it will not be easy. A change in leadership does not mean that there is suddenly a new wave of support for the People's United Party. Obviously that is not the case. I will have to go out there every day as the leader of this party and prove to the Belizean people that we are a credible and viable alternative to the United Democratic Party."

"It was a difficult decision as you know; it's a decision that I made late last evening to submit my acceptance to the nomination for the post of Party Leader. It was a long hard thought out decision, but it thought it was in the best interest of the party and I have to say what had tremendous impact on me is the calls from the members of the Price family, I have to say that many of them - the elders of the Price family call on me to step forward. They felt that it was important certainly in only weeks after Mr. Price's death that we continue the fight of the People's United Party."

Jules Vasquez
"Sir, did you have the support of the past leader John Briceno and the senior deputies Mark Espat and Cordel Hyde?"

Hon. Francis Fonseca, Executive Endorsement PUP Leader
"The former leader was represented here today by his brother Jaime Briceno and Jaime Briceno has indicated in clear terms that he and his brother John Briceno and the Orange Walk Central committee will fully support my endorsement as Party Leader."

"In the case of senior deputies Mark Espat and Cordel Hyde - I certainly hope to enjoy their support. In my conversations with Mark and Cordel but primarily with Mark over the past few days leading up to his own decision he had express his confidence in me his willingness to support me if I decided to take on the leadership of the party. So I accept him in good faith at his word."

Fonseca did concede that Mark Espat was his first choice for leader two weeks ago:

Hon. Francis Fonseca, Executive Endorsement PUP Leader
"I felt then that Mark Espat represented the best opportunity for the People's United Party to mount a serious challenge to the United Democratic Party. But life is real - he made his decision and we have to move on. I have tremendous regard and respect for Mark and I look forward in working with him very closely moving forward because together I believe with all the deputy leaders, together we form a formidable team."

Whether that team will actually gel or even take the court together is another question, but for the time being while leader of the party is settled - who will lead in parliament?

Henry Charles Usher, Chairman PUP
"The National Executive has also recommended that the senior parliamentarian in the House the Rt. Hon. Said Musa the member for Fort George be the Leader of the Opposition at tomorrow House meeting until such time as the new leader is endorse at the party council next week Saturday."

Jules Vasquez
"But he doesn't have a simple majority."

Henry Charles Usher, Chairman PUP
"This is a decision that the National Executive took, the parliamentarians run on a party ticket. The party has made its decision and that decision will be submitted to the Governor General. It is the Governor General that makes the choice for Leader of the Opposition."

Jules Vasquez
"Ultimately it's constitutional and so the party can decide anything. The GG will make the final decision."

Henry Charles Usher, Chairman PUP
"The Governor General makes the final decision."

Hon. Francis Fonseca, Executive Endorsement PUP Leader
"In the interim Mr. Musa is the most senior Member of Parliament for the People's United Party and it is appropriate as the Governor General has sought to do to appoint him as the Leader of the Opposition for tomorrow's meeting."

Jules Vasquez
"Has the Governor General so sought?"

Hon. Francis Fonseca, Executive Endorsement PUP Leader
"He has, he spoke to me about the matter and he said to me that is his intention."

Reporter
"The party has given their full support to Mr. Musa in that regard?"

Hon. Francis Fonseca, Executive Endorsement PUP Leader
"The National Executive unanimously support the appointment of Mr. Musa."

Jules Vasquez
"But 3 parliamentarians oppose."

Hon. Francis Fonseca, Executive Endorsement PUP Leader
"I haven't heard that from them as you have reported that."

The other unsettled matter is the party's finances:

Henry Charles Usher, Chairman PUP
"In order to carry out the Party's functions you do need finances. We are confident at the National Executive level that we will have a plan in place to be able to campaign and to win the municipal elections next March and moving into the general election whenever that is call. As to what you've been hearing on the television and so the Party is not in any dire straits and Jules I am here to tell you that the Party does not owe the Holy Redeemer Credit Union any money, please rectify that this evening in your news because that is inaccurate."

Jules Vasquez
"The Treasurer of the Party has sign for it."

Henry Charles Usher, Chairman PUP
"That is a personal account and the Treasurer is a member of the Holy Redeemer Credit Union and like any other member he has a right to borrow money and that is his decision. It's not the party that borrowed money from the Holy Redeemer Credit Union. Please make that clear."

Jules Vasquez
"It is on behalf of the Party though."

Henry Charles Usher, Chairman PUP
"Please make that clear that the Party does not own credit union any money."

Marion Alley, Reporter
"Mark turn down the opportunity because of financial woes. How do you plan to take the Party out of its debt?"

Hon. Francis Fonseca, Executive Endorsement PUP Leader
"Well that is obviously a very serious issue and it is a real issue and I fully understand and appreciate the concerns that he had. I have them as well, but in times of crisis it's very easy to walk away from the problem. I felt that it was important for me to step up and be a part of the solution to that problem. We are face with serious financial difficulties but I am confident that in the next few weeks we will be able to sit down as a party and determine a way forward in respect of that issue and I can assure the Belizean people that I want to do this from the very outset - that we will do so in a way that does not compromise the fundamental principles of the People's United Party. There is no going back."

But the truth is that there is no going forward without a major influx of money - the party went through an incredible 6.5 million dollars in Briceno's 30 month tenure, and Fonseca now has two elections to finance in 17 months.

That was at noon today, but tonight there's still plenty that's left unsettled.

Channel 7