To understand the limitations of our democracy in Belize, you have to understand what is “machine politics,” and how it works.
As a media industry, Kremandala is not in the business of dreams where electoral politics is concerned. We support the concepts and the personalities of the so-called independents, but we are not in a position to finance those political candidates who are independent of the PUDP. Such independents would have to raise serious financing in order to be successful, because electoral politics, when you enter the final few hours on election day, is all about the party machines.
In the case of general elections, the party political process begins with the candidate, who must be satisfactory to the party financiers while also having appeal to the voting populace. There are two kinds of candidates. One is the candidate who works his/her way up the party ladder over a period of years. Such a candidate is the UDP’s Mesopotamia area representative, Hon. Michael Finnegan, who served his party as a foot soldier from its foundation in 1973 and finally became a constituency standard bearer twenty years later, in 1993. The other type of candidate is the individual who has established a prominent or professional position in society, like the ophthalmologist Dr. David Hoy, who became the PUP’s emergency candidate in Caribbean Shores after Anthony Mahler withdrew from the race.
Now, once you have your candidate, the specific constituency committee has to work along with him/her as he/she goes into the constituency to meet the voters. There are three kinds of voters – those who support your party, those who support the opposing party, and those who are independent/uncommitted. The job of the campaign management/constituency committee is to compile a data base of all your pledges and probables, which is to say, those voters who are traditional supporters of your party and those who are considering voting for your candidate because they like him/her or the program being offered by your party, or, in some cases, they have become angry at their own party for one reason or another.
A top notch campaign machine will locate voters all over the country who are registered in a specific constituency, in, let’s say, Belize City. In fact, there are some campaign machines which have huge amounts of constituency voters who fly in from the United States to vote. But, most such voters do this on their own. Within Belize itself, consider the following. A policeman registered in Collet may have been transferred to Punta Gorda. You have to first find him, then figure a way to get him from Toledo to the old capital on election day. A teacher registered in Caribbean Shores may actually be teaching in Corozal. That teacher has to be transported back to Caribbean Shores for election day, then back to work.
Okay, so now you have organized your committee and compiled your lists of pledges and probables. You try to keep in touch with these voters as much as possible before election day, because you have to make sure your opponent is not messing around in your chicken coop.
Then comes election day. The key is moving voting information from inside the polling room to the machine/organization outside of that room, in the street. The inside people tell the outside people which of your pledges and probables have voted, and at a certain time late in the morning or early in the afternoon, the machines of the two major parties swing into gear big time to bring out all those pledges and probables who are yet to vote. This is what most of the frenzy on election day afternoons is about, and this is when the non-machine independents fade into the sunset. There is no rhetoric, no posturing, and no gimmicks on election day afternoons – just machines. And all machines need oil, which is to say, money.
Because of this unassailable fact, our Belizean democracy is limited where people power is concerned. It is people who are the working parts in the machines, but they are professionals: they love their party, but they do not work for free. Our democracy is functionally limited because, in campaign and on election day, roots people lose sight of the basic issues which affect their daily lives, and become enmeshed in the fight between the two major parties which they are being paid to wage.
After the fight is over, one of the parties wins, and one of the parties loses. For a while, the workers with the victorious party feel that they themselves have also won. But as time goes along, it becomes more and more clear that it is those unseen financiers who have greased the machine of the winning political party who have won the real victory. The campaigners of the machine are paid in full during the campaign and on election day, you see. But, it is the financiers who collect once the party becomes the government, and throughout the life of their term of office. This is the real. Amandala