By Wellington C. Ramos
In Belize, the Caribbean and to a large extent many other countries in the world, third political parties have failed to gain ground due to poor planning, no grassroots campaign and the time they launched their parties.
The two oldest active political parties in the country of Belize today are the People’s United Party (PUP), which was formed in 1950, and the United Democratic Party (UDP), a party that came out of the People’s Democratic Movement (PDM), the Liberal Party and the National Independence Party (NIP) in 1973. Belize has other parties that were registered earlier in Belize’s history like the Honduran Independence Party (HIP) and the Christian Democratic Party (CDP).
Born in Dangriga Town, the cultural capital of Belize, Wellington Ramos has BAs in Political Science and History from Hunter College, NY, and an MA in Urban Studies from Long Island University. He is an Adjunct Professor of Political Science and History
Since 1973, other political parties have been formed, such as National Alliance for Belizean Rights (NABR), which came out of a split with UDP, Vision Inspired by the People (VIP), We the People Reform Movement (WTPRM), People’s National Party (PNP), Corozal United Front (CUF), Democratic and Agricultural Labour Party (DALP), National Party (NP), People’s Action Committee (PAC), People’s Democratic Party (PDP), United Black Association for Development (UBAD), Toledo Progressive Party (TPP), San Pedro United Movement (SPUM) and National Reality Truth Progressive Party (NRTPP) that appeared during general elections but disappeared after they were badly defeated by the UDP or PUP. Once a political party is registered in Belize anybody can reactivate the party without going through another registration process.
Today in Belize the only political parties that are considered active are the United Democratic Party (UDP) -- the party in government led by the party leader, Prime Minister Dean Barrow -- the People’s United Party (PUP), with their leader John Briceno, Vision Inspired by the People (VIP) led by Paul Morgan established in the year 2005, and People’s National Party (PNP), with their leader Will Maheia, which was founded in 2007.
Since the founding of the VIP the party has not established any organization in any of the six districts of Belize except in the Cayo District and mainly in the capital city of Belize, Belmopan. They contested the general elections in February of 2008 in seven constituencies but were defeated badly in the polls. In the municipal elections held in the city of Belmopan, where most of the party members live, they had a full slate of candidates and won 23 percent of the votes cast but failed to win a single seat on the city council.
Like the VIP, the PNP leader Will Maheia lives in Punta Gorda Town and has concentrated most of his efforts in the Toledo District where that town is located. There is no evidence that, since these two parties lost the general, municipal and village council elections, they have been engaged in a national grassroots campaign to organize their political parties throughout the entire country of Belize to win a general election.
In Belize, general elections are held every five years and municipal elections, which includes cities and towns every three years. Village council elections are also held every three years and are considered important because of the amount of people that live in the villages and the constituencies that these villages are a part of. There are thirty-one seats in the Belize House of Representatives and the party that wins the most seats out of this thirty-one is the party that forms the new government after the general elections to rule the country for five years.
Belize and all the former British colonies have a Westminster model form of government and the power lies with the central government. Winning the House of Representatives gives the political party all the power they need in the country. In the last elections that were held in February of 2008, the United Democratic Party (UDP) defeated all the other parties by winning 25 out of 31 seats. The main opposition, the People’s United Party, won the remaining six seats.
Municipal and village council elections were also held in 2010 and the United Democratic Party controls all the municipalities in the country and most of the village councils. Knowing this to be true, one would think that these other two political parties would be actively organizing their parties to get ready for the next general election, which is due by February of 2013. Yet, they are complacent and would only come up with a few press releases from time to time.
The third parties in Belize have the tendency to start just before the general elections and, after they lose the elections, you do not hear about them anymore. Based on some surveys that have been conducted, there is evidence that Belizeans are becoming dissatisfied with the two major political parties and would welcome another party if there was a real alternative.
Over the years, Belizeans have become more independent voters and on the streets of Belize they would tell you that they are tired of replacing a monkey with a black dog, which is the same as saying that the UDP and the PUP are becoming more like Pepsi and Coke. Unemployment, poverty, crime unequal distribution of wealth, nepotism, patronage, drugs and many other major problems exist in Belize today.
Belizeans have always yearned to live a better life and the parties are not delivering the goods. Some people only go to vote when they are being paid to go and vote, which is bad for our democracy. Last month the University of Belize graduated about 400 students to the world of unemployment. They have tuition bills to pay and families to maintain. Without employment their graduation is not that significant because they need jobs to maintain themselves and their loved ones.
With the main opposition, the People’s United Party, so fragmented, it looks like the United Democratic Party will defeat them at the polls whenever the next general elections are called. However, crime and employment will be the determining factors for the next general election in Belize and the UDP must come up with a solution for these two problems quickly to guarantee them the victory. If the People’s United Party loses there will be another party split coming out of the PUP and more political parties will emerge in Belize.