UDP wins Second Term, Narrowly
The UDP will form the next Government of Belize. The party has won a majority of the seats in the House of Representatives, by a margin of 17 to 14.
And while that is comfortable, the race was closer than that. In fact, a difference only 61 votes total in Cayo Central and Cayo northeast gave the UDP the majority it needs to form the government.
That is a razor-thin margin, but nonetheless - party loyalists - are calling it a case of "ugly win betta than pretty lose" and moving on to form the new government.
There is a consequential challenge to the outcome though - as tonight the PUP is contesting the result sand not conceding defeat.
We'll have more on that in a minute, but first, to the victor goes the headlines. The UDP held a press conference this afternoon - and the Prime Minister designate gave his impressions of the election outcome and a preview of the days and years ahead. Here's how that went:
Jules Vasquez Reporting
There were a lot of hearty handshakes and hugs for both winners and losers before today's press conference.
The atmosphere was tinged with disappointment but still happy if not triumphalist: after all the UDP has now won four of the seven elections since 1981 and can rightly call itself the dominant party in the country's post-independence era.
But a close shave not dominance is what the PM opened with
Dean Barrow - Prime Minister Elect
"If things had gone slightly differently, I might not have been here at all today."
And Barrow started on a conciliatory note for his second term
"We hope that with the heat of battle behind us, healing in the nation can begin. It has never been the policies of the United Democratic Party to, in any systematic way, practice any kind of victimization. We are always going to give the break to our own supporters, all other things being equal, but there is never going to be - as long as I am here - any calculated policy to seek to inflict pressure on those that did not and do not support us. This is one Belize, and we are all Belizeans. And the Government of the United Democratic Party must be government for all Belizeans."
But, that said, Barrow made it clear that his strong governance style would continue:
"Our mandate is greatly reduced, or rather our numbers are greatly reduced, but I want to make the point that what the United Democratic Party stands for and believes in is unchanging, is as constant as the northern star, and is unwavering. Our stand for Belizean Nationalism will continue undiminished, undaunted, and our pro-people and pro-poor programs will actually be expanded. We will want work with all. We will want to extend a hand to the Opposition, to Civil Society, and to the NGO Community. We will always try to be understanding and accommodating, but nobody better ever think that the UDP is, in any sense, weaken. To the contrary, speaking for myself, we have been given a second term, and as I said in one interview that I gave, that provides us with a certain degree of latitude. It gives us the luxury of never ever again having to worry about being a one-term government. Therefore, we will do what is right without stopping to count the consequences. Work with us, we say to all in society. Don't come and test us. Don't test us, because we are not about to back off. We want to embrace all, but if there is any that wishes to fling down the gauntlet, then it will be 'tit for tat' and butter for fish. And I say this, ladies and gentlemen, because I have already begun to hear certain rumblings, but let me not dwell on that. I hope that I have made it clear, that the preferred stance of this government is to try to reach out to all and sundry. The preferred approach of this government is to try to work with everyone. There are going to be differences. We believe that with dialog, we can perhaps resolve most of the differences, and that in any event, we can agree to disagree without becoming disagreeable, but I repeat, don't test us."
And so with that, they are going about their business of forming a new administration:
"Tomorrow, I hope to be sworn in. There is an appointment for me with His Excellency, the Governor General, at 10 a.m. Thereafter, I will be looking at the whole question of the re-alignment - if that is the correct word because of certain circumstances that I will get into in a minute - but I will be looking at the re-alignment of ministries. I then expect to take the weekend to contemplate on the question of appointments to ministerial positions. It's a long weekend; Monday is a holiday. I would therefore propose not to announce the Cabinet until sometime on Tuesday. I want to make something clear. There are 17 of us that have been returned to office under the United Democratic Party banner. There will now be 17 members of the House of Representatives on the UDP's side. The constitution of the country is clear. Only 2/3 members of the House coming from the party that makes up the majority and forms the Government, can become ministers. The constitution contains an express limitation. 2/3 of 17 don't give you too very many. Let us forget the percentage, because there is no member of the UDP that's a half, or a quarter, or a fraction. So basically, as I say it - and you all now that I've never been good at math, general paper as well, my friend - it means that only 11 of the elected members of the House on the UDP's side can become ministers. So, gentlemen, all of you who have won, this has nothing to do with me. It is the constitution of the country. The particular section also says that the Government is able to appoint 4 additional ministers to come from the Senate. Altogether then, even if we felt that there was a need for more ministries, in the circumstances, the constitution limits us to 15 ministries, and 4 ministers out of the 15 ministers that will head those 15 ministries, must come from the Senate. I am entirely satisfied with the verdict of the Belizean people. We have a working majority - a clear working majority - and that is more than enough to get the job done for our beloved Belize."
The UDP also won a majority of the town boards retaining control of six municipalities - including Belize City.
We'll have more detailed look at the results later on in the newscast.
But before that we'll tell you about the PUP's reaction. The opposition isn't conceding defeat, instead it's asking why it was not granted recounts in the two deciding Cayo divisions.
PUP Does Not Concede Defeat, Says Elections Not Free And Fair
And while Dean Barrow is going to be sworn in as Prime Minister tomorrow morning - the opposition still has not conceded the election.
At a press conference at the party headquarters this evneing, party leader Francis Fonseca said that the election was not free and fair:
Francis Fonseca - Party Leader, PUP
"I would have hoped to report to you regardless of the outcome that on March 7, Belize had free and fair elections. Regrettably, this has been the case. Across the country, there have been credible, reliable, documented reports of abuse and illegality in the conduct of our election process. Our party has assembled a team of legal advisors, who are examining the documented evidence, and reviewing the legal options available. I can report to the nation that it is the intention of the People's United Party to file several election petitions in respect of the March 7 General Elections: certainly one in respect of the Cayo Northeast Division, another in respect of Cayo Central, and another in respect of the Lake Independence constituency in Belize City. And there may be others. The filing of these election petitions is not a matter we take lightly. Throughout the election campaign, I made it absolutely clear that the PUP would engage in a vigorous campaign, but would always respect the final decision of the Belizean people. That respect is premised on free and fair elections, and on our obligation and duty to ensure that the will of the Belizean people is not thwarted or denied. As I speak, I am yet to receive an official report on the election results from the Elections and Boundaries Department. Despite this, it is my understanding that the UDP Leader, Mr. Barrow is announcing plans to form a government. In an election where unofficial reports show a 30-vote separation between the 2 major political parties in determining which party forms the government, all of our statements, actions and decisions must be grounded in respect and humility. But we feel very strongly that the unofficial results that have been presented to the nation, that based on the documented evidence that we have, that requires us filing an election petition in the courts in respect of several of these divisions, and we expect based on the evidence that the results can be overturned on that basis. It's surprising that we can be having announcements by the UDP Leader that he is in the process of forming a government when the actual official results have not been presented to the people of Belize."
Those official results have since been released - and are available on the elections and boundaries website. We'll also discuss them later on in the news.
But looking past that, the party's director of communications Lisa Shoman told the media today about the specific irregularities they hope to challenge in court:
Lisa Shoman - Director of Communications, PUP
"In respect of the Lake Independence Division, as you all know, the electoral petition challenge there will be to the fact that Yolanda Schakron's name should have been on that ballot, and that her disqualification of her candidacy was not right, and it will be challenged by way of an election petition. In respect of Cayo Northeast, there are several issues, among them, the bribery and misconduct, of Mr. Penner in the issue of naturalizations of Non - Belizeans, and paying for the fees associated with nationality certificates, and the facilitation of immediate registration of persons who should have to have first become citizens, and then resided in Belize for 2 months before being put on electoral roles. We also have photographic evidence that was taken on Election Day of the candidate's agents of bribery and misconduct. And there is additionally - unfortunately - in terms of the Elections and Boundaries mechanism, an outright refusal, despite a formal request for a recount - an outright refusal to allow that recount in circumstances in which not only was the margin narrow, but there were several rejected ballots, and no good - or no reason was given at all for this refusal. And that will also ground a legal challenge. In respect of Cayo Central, serious irregularities were reported by election day workers and agents for the PUP candidate, as to the number of ballots that were in the ballot box, in particular one ballot box, and the subsequent refusal of Elections and Boundaries Officials to allow the right, that is a legal right, of agents to accompany the ballot box to the place where the boxes were taken. And therefore, there was a serious discrepancy in the ballots that we had reported, and that were actually counted. Additionally, there was the refusal of the refusal of the Returning Officer, Mrs. Parks, to have a recount again with no reason at all given. She simply said it would not be done, and her decision was final. Also in respect of Cayo Central, there is evidence of both misconduct and bribery by the agents of the candidate."
Now the last piece of this puzzle is the OAS Observer Mission - they held a losing pres conference today - and later on in the news, we'll look at that.
BUT FIRST, what does the Prime Minister have to say about the PUP's decision not to concede? He calls it a lack of good graces:
"Are you are aware that there are any areas where a clear winner has not been declared or that there is any recount pending in any area, particularly Cayo Central and Northeast?"
Dean Barrow - Prime Minister Elect
"No sir, I am not so aware. In fact, as a far as I know, the elections are over. The official results have been declared. The verdict stands. I will tell you this, certainly, when I lost my first election as leader of the United Democratic Party in 2003 - was it - I had the good grace; I had the sense duty enough to call the Prime Minister - the returning prime minister - to offer my congratulations. I have not heard from a single soul in the Opposition in that regard. My point is that when you lose, you lose. There were several points during the course of what was clearly a very long night last night that I thought it likely that the UDP would lose. I gathered myself, prepared to go forth, and meet the media, to make as dignified a concession speech as I would have been able to muster. That is what democracy is all about, and we in the UDP are certainly democratic."
The Select 31And so tonight, things have changed but they remain the same.
As the comparative map of the country's electoral divisions shows the PUP has gained control over major portions of the country, but because it increased its hold in Belize City, the UDP still has the majority.
The UDP is having a victory rally in front of its headquarters - and the PUP candidates who flat out lost are licking their wounds - while the party is preparing to challenge in the case of those who lost by narrow margins.
Tonight, we'll run down the list of all 31 winners in the general election.
1. Caribbean Shores- Santino "Santi" Castillo - UDP
2. Freetown- Francis W. Fonseca - PUP
3. Pickstock- Wilfred "Sedi" Elrinton - UDP
4.Fort George - Said Musa PUP 5.Lake I - Mark Anthony King - UDP
6. Albert - Herman R. Longsworth - UDP
7. Collet - Patrick Jason Faber - UDP
8. Mesopotamia- Michael Finnegan - UDP
9. Queen Square - Dean Oliver Barrow - UDP
10. Port Loyola- Anthony "Boots" Martinez - UDP
11. Belize Rural North - Edmond Castro - UDP
12. Belize Rural South - Jose Manuel "Junior" Heredia - UDP
13. Belize Rural Central - Dolores Balderamos - PUP
14. Orange Walk North - Gaspar "Gapi" Vega - UDP
15. Orange Walk Central - Juan "Johnny" Antonio Briceño - PUP
16. Orange Walk East - Dr. Marco Tulio Mendez - PUP
17. Orange Walk South - Jose Abelardo Mai - PUP
18. Cayo North - Joseph Mahmud - PUP
19. Cayo South - Julius Espat - PUP
20> Cayo West - Erwin Rafael Contreras - UDP
21. Cayo Central - Rene Montero - UDP
22. Cayo NorthEast - Elvin Penner - UDP
23. Belmopan - John B. Saldivar - UDP
24. Corozal North- Hugo Amilcar Patt - UDP
25. Corozal South West - Ramiro Ramirez - PUP
26. Corozal Bay - Pablo Marin - UDP
27. Corozal South East - Florencio Julian Marin- PUP
28. Dangriga - Ivan "Maca" Michael - PUP
29. Stann Creek West - Rodwell Ferguson -PUP
30. Toldeo West - Oscar Requena PUP
31.Toledo East Michael Joseph Espat - PUP
And in the municipalities, the UDP won control of 6 of 9 town and city councils - but there were a few split councils...
The results were interesting. It resulted in 6 UDP mayors and 3 PUP mayors. For Belize City, the UDP came with a blowout victory with all 10 UDP councilors elected along with the UDP Mayor.
In San Pedro Town the UDP was strong with victories for 5 UDP councilors, the UDP Mayor, and 1 PUP councilor.
They had an overpowering presence in Benque Viejo Del Carmen Town with all 6 UDP councilors being elected, and, again, a UDP mayor.
In Corozal Town, all 6 UDP councilors won, as well as the Mayor.
In Orange Walk Town, however, the 6 PUP councilors and the PUP mayoral candidate won.
In San Ignacio and Santa Elena Town 6 UDP councilors were elected along with the UDP mayoral candidate.
In Belmopan City 4 UDP councilors were elected, 2 PUP were elected, with the UDP candidate as mayor.
Moving South, in Dangriga Town the 6 PUP councilors won, as well as the PUP Mayoral candidate.
Finally, in Punta Gorda Town the PUP candidate was elected Mayor, and 5 PUP councilors won as well as 1 UDP councilor.
Several U.D.P. seats lost; candidates to blame
The U.D.P. lost eight of its seats and at times during the night it appeared that the P.U.P. might have won. The PM admitted it was a close call and he even considered what he would say to the media if the tide had turned. But what caused the loss in of so many U.D.P. seats? The Prime Minister said that it wasn’t that people didn’t come out for the party, in some cases, it was the candidate that was rejected.
“Could I next thank all the candidates of our great the U.D.P. Many of them didn’t win—far too many of them for my liking—but there is not one who has anything to be ashamed of. I can say that during this campaign, each and every single one of those candidates put it all on the line. They all left it out there yesterday. Look at what has happened. There are those seats that we lost, there are other seats in which the margin of victory was too close for comfort, but there were so many other seats in which the margin victory was outlandishly huge. Erwin Contreras won by one thousand seven hundred and ten votes. Finnegan and I increased our majority—I won four to one. I am, sorry to say it, but I always try to engage in straight talk. I can point you to at least six seats in which our seat defeat had nothing to do with party and everything to do with candidate. That is God’s honest truth. So I will also concede of course that while I believe our government did a creditable job, while I believe that our policies were the right policies, there is no doubt that we were bedeviled, haunted by the objective circumstances both locally and internationally. So of course, there would in any case be slippage in our fortune. You can’t come to power in 2008 on a floodtide of expectations, be confronted by the inherited situation which you can’t complain about since you knew that is what would face you, but almost immediately after taking office, find that the entire world is plunged into a global crisis of unprecedented proportions which affect us most in this part of the world. And affect countries like us with small opened economies dramatically. You can’t be battling with that set of circumstances for four years and hope to come out unscathed.”
PM says some OAS Recommendations impractical
The comments made by the OAS Observer team were not out of the ordinary. The OAS observer mission was well received and felt the experience showed a working democracy. The PM, however, says that some of the suggestions are impractical and that elections are free and fair… but not perfect.
“They want to tell us to seize and desist from our time honored tradition of people campaigning vigorously when the voters are approaching the polling stations. Man that is a pipe dream; that is never going to happen. In an ideal world; that may no doubt be desirable but that is never going to happen. In terms of differentiation of state resources from party resources, of course the line sometimes becomes blurred, but again that is perhaps in an ideal world, also undesirable. But I repeat, Adele, we are talking about free and fair elections; not perfect elections. I am sure the OAS—whatever recommendations they made—I am sure the OAS never suggested that in any way our elections can be characterized as either unfair or un-free. So to the extent that they make suggestions for improvements, we must take those onboard except where those suggestions are so very clearly impractical.”
The preliminary statement on the Electoral Observation Mission was presented to the government during a meeting following the prime minister’s press conference this afternoon.
The Final Tally of DECISION 2012
There were surprise wins and losses in Wednesday’s general elections. In the south, the People’s United Party won handsomely taking all seats in the Toledo and Stann Creek Districts with the stunning defeat of Melvin Hulse and Eden Martinez. In the North, the opposition took five of eight seats, and made significant gains in the west but the City was a sea of red. News Five’s Delahnie Bain has the final tally of DECISION 2012.
Delahnie Bain, Reporting
At the end of a long day of voting followed by a long night of counting on Wednesday, the U.D.P. emerged victorious in the general elections. It was a nail biter as the results flowed in. Taking a look at the numbers, in Belize City it was a clean sweep for the U.D.P., which won in eight of ten constituencies, including Albert and Lake Indepdence; two P.U.P. strongholds that were up for grabs after the resignations of Mark Espat and Cordel Hyde.
In the Albert Division it was a race between two newcomers; Herman Longsworth for the U.D.P. and David Craig for the P.U.P. Longsworth won with one thousand, thirty-four votes; that’s a margin of two hundred and twenty-seven over Craig’s eight hundred and seven votes. Meanwhile in Lake I, it was a three man race between the U.D.P.’s Mark King versus the P.U.P.’s Martin Galvez and Independent candidate, Carlos Diaz. With one thousand, five hundred and forty-four votes, King beat Galvez by one hundred and seventy-two. Galvez got a total of one thousand, three hundred and seventy-two votes while Diaz only received two hundred and twenty-two. Another U.D.P. newcomer, Santino “Santi” Castillo was victorious in Caribbean Shores, winning with two thousand and one votes. He thrashed the P.U.P.’s Dr. David Hoy by a margin of nine hundred and forty-one. Hoy garnered one thousand, three hundred and twenty-five.
The U.D.P. strongholds in the city also delivered on Wednesday. In the Collet Division, Patrick Faber secured his third term as area rep with one thousand, nine hundred and forty-nine votes; that’s eight hundred and eighty-nine more than his P.U.P. opponent, Carolyn Trench-Sandiford’s one thousand and sixty. It was a another U.D.P. blowout in Mesopotamia, where Michael Finnegan won his fifth election. He garnered one thousand, eight hundred and forty-one votes compared to P.U.P. candidate, Philip Palacio’s three hundred and eighty votes. Finnegan again has the best statistical win with a margin of one thousand, four hundred and sixty-one.
The U.D.P.’s Anthony “Boots” Martinez also won comfortably in Port Loyola where he received one thousand, seven hundred and eighty-nine votes, securing a third term in office. The P.U.P.’s Gilroy Usher Senior got nine hundred and ninety votes; he lost by seven hundred and ninety-nine. Wilfred “Sedi” Elrington kept Pickstock on the red team for a second time with one thousand and thirty eight votes, but P.U.P. candidate, Dr. Francis Smith was close behind with nine hundred and fifty six; missing the seat by eighty-two votes. And Dean Barrow secured his seventh term as area representative for Queen Square where he defeated the P.U.P.’s Anthony Sylvestre by one thousand, five hundred and forty-nine votes. The final count is two thousand and thirty-nine votes for Barrow and four hundred and ninety for Sylvestre.
For the P.U.P., Fort George remains a safe seat as Said Musa won for a sixth consecutive term by four hundred and eighty-seven votes. Musa received one thousand, two hundred and two votes while U.D.P. candidate, Dr. George Gough’s got seven hundred and fifteen. P.U.P. party leader Francis Fonseca also retained his seat in Freetown, beating Lee Mark Chang by one hundred and fifty votes. It was one thousand five hundred and fifty-eight for Fonseca and one thousand four hundred and eight for Chang.
Still in the Belize District, the P.U.P. also won a seat in Belize Rural Central, where Dolores Balderamos Garcia triumphed over the incumbent, Michael Hutchinson by garnering two thousand and five votes. Hutchinson received one thousand, eight hundred and one votes.
But it was more red in the rest of the district. In Belize Rural South, Manuel Heredia Junior got two thousand, four hundred and seventy-nine votes to defeat the P.U.P.’s Patty Arceo, who received two thousand and twenty-six. VIP candidate, Roberto “Bobby” Lopez had three hundred and thirty-two votes while independent William Campbell got twenty-four. In Rural North, Edmund “Clear the Land” Castro is in for a second term. He received two thousand, one hundred and three votes, a decisive win over Arthur Saldivar who had one thousand, five hundred and sixty-eight.
Heading out west, Belmopan stayed red with John Saldivar, who had two thousand, seven hundred and seventy-five votes. He beat the P.U.P.’s Dr. Amin Hegar, who got two hundred and fifty-seven. Meanwhile, VIP’s Richard Smith garnered two hundred and thirty votes.
The U.D.P. also took Cayo West where Erwin Contreras won with three thousand, seventy-nine votes. Oscar Sabido, who ran on the blue ticket lost with his one thousand, seven hundred and forty-five votes. In Cayo North East, a mere seventeen votes gave the U.D.P.’s Elvin Penner a second chance. Penner had two thousand, fifty-one votes and the P.U.P.’s Orlando Habet was right on his tail with two thousand, thirty-four. There was also a small margin in Cayo Central where incumbent, Rene Montero beat P.U.P. candidate, Collet Montejo by only forty-four. The final tally was two thousand, five hundred and twenty-two to two thousand, four hundred and seventy-eight respectively.
But the other two U.D.P. incumbents in Cayo were knocked out by P.U.P. first-time candidates. In Cayo North, Joseph Mahmud garnered two thousand, three hundred and eighty-two votes to beat Salvador Fernandez, who had one thousand, nine hundred and eighty-five. Independent candidate, Marcel Bedran, only received a hundred and ninety-one votes. In Cayo South, P.U.P. candidate Julius Espat, took out incumbent, Ramon Witz by a considerable margin of over four hundred. Espat received two thousand, five hundred and sixty-eight votes versus Witz’ two thousand, one hundred and nine.
Moving north, Orange Walk’s four constituencies went three to one in favor of the P.U.P. Dr. Marco Tulio Mendez won Orange Walk East with two thousand, seven hundred and sixty-one votes. His opponent, Orlando “Landy” Burns had two thousand, four hundred and ninety-six. Orange Walk Central stayed blue with John Briceño, who got three thousand and forty-two votes. The U.D.P.’s Denny Gijalva was far behind with two thousand, one hundred and fifty-six. And in Orange Walk South, the P.U.P.’s Jose Mai was declared winner with two thousand, nine hundred sixty-eight votes while Rosendo “Chendo” Urbina lost for the U.D.P. with his two thousand, six hundred and five.
For the U.D.P., Gaspar “Gappy” Vega delivered Orange Walk North. His three thousand, four hundred and five votes gave him with victory over P.U.P. candidate, Jorge Briceño’s two thousand, three hundred and fifty-seven.
Further north in Corozal, two constituencies went blue and two red. Ramiro Ramirez gave Corozal Southwest to the P.U.P. by securing two thousand, one hundred and fifty-three votes. Gabriel Martinez put up a good fight for the U.D.P. with two thousand, one hundred and twenty votes while independent Angel Campus garnered three hundred and eighty-four. Corozal Southeast incumbent, Florencio Marin Jr. earned a second term in the P.U.P. stronghold. He received two thousand, nine hundred and ninety-nine while U.D.P. candidate, Raul Rosado got two thousand, five hundred and eighty-seven.
The U.D.P.’s Hugo Patt took Corozal North with two thousand, six hundred and seventy-three votes while P.U.P. candidate, Valdemar Castillo secured two thousand, four hundred and sixty-four. And in Corozal Bay, incumbent Pablo Marin delivered the U.D.P.’s sixteenth seat when his two thousand, three hundred and forty-eight vote victory was announced. His opponent Gregorio “Papas” Garcia lost by one hundred and forty-eight votes with two thousand, one hundred and ninety-two. Independent candidate, Carlos Sawers received a mere fifty votes.
And in the south, all four constituencies went from red to blue. In Stann Creek West, U.D.P. incumbent Melvin Hulse was pushed out of his seat by Rodwell Ferguson, who received three thousand, two hundred and seventy-two votes. Hulse got two thousand, six hundred and ninety-eight while the P.N.P.’s Charles Leslie Junior received one hundred and twenty-seven. Dangriga also went from red to blue when Ivan Ramos garnered two thousand, thirty-six votes, beating out Arthur Roches who got one thousand, six hundred and ninety-nine.
The P.U.P. also won Toledo East, where Mike Espat took on Peter Eden Martinez. Espat received two thousand, four hundred and seventeen votes while Martinez had two thousand, seventy-seven. The P.N.P.’s Wil Maheia got two hundred and eighty-two. And the Toledo West division changed hands as incumbent Juan Coy took a whooping from the P.U.P.’s Oscar Requeña, who won by one thousand three hundred and seven votes. Three thousand, one hundred and sixty-five votes went to Requeña and one thousand, eight hundred and fifty-eight to Juan Coy. The P.N.P.’s Martin Ack received only twenty-nine votes.
At the end of counting, the P.U.P. won fourteen constituencies while the U.D.P. walked away with seventeen seats to form the next government. Delahnie Bain for News Five.