By Wellington C. Ramos
Before the elections were held in Belize on November 4, 2015, I had predicted that the United Democratic Party (UDP) was going to defeat the People’s United Party (PUP) by a margin of 20 to 11 seats. One week before the elections, I increased the margin of victory to 22 to 9 seats. I did not expect the Belize Progressive Party (BPP) to win any seats.
The election results ended up being: 19 UDP seats to 12 PUP seats and 0 BPP seats. If it was not for overconfidence, cockiness and carelessness on the part of a few UDP candidates, they had those 22 seats to win. The election is now over and the UDP candidates who lost by a few votes must blame themselves for losing. I just hope that they learnt from their mistakes for next time.
The PUP’s problems started in 2006 when seven of their ministers broke away from their party and asked their then prime minister Said Musa to get rid of one of their fellow ministers Ralph Fonseca who was wielding too much power over them. The prime minister refused to listen to these seven ministers and the relationship turned ugly.
In the interest of their party some of them remained with the party and some left. Those who remained were never trusted and treated the same way up to today. Yet, their hope is that the party will change. Those who left are convinced that the PUP will not change and are watching the situation closely.
I tend to believe that the PUP will not change. Why? Because I get the impression that there are some families, businesses, and an ethnic group in Belize who believe that the PUP belongs to them and them alone. They must approve any and everything for the party and without their approval nothing will happen. The name People’s United Party is just a name but in reality it should be Some People’s United Party (SPUP).
People have got to see themselves represented in a party and if that is not occurring they will leave the party. Sociology, media and communications teaches about the power of “image”. The image that the PUP portrays is different from that of the UDP. When Belizeans look at the faces of the UDP, they see themselves in the party.
I have brought up this issue before in previous articles and some members of the PUP accused me of being a racist. How could I be a racist, when I am not the person denying people to be a part of a political party? They are the people that are denying and controlling the PUP party. This observation has been made by several members of the People’s United Party who have decided to leave. Some of them are even afraid to speak out against the injustices of their party in public.
They are so lucky that the loss is not as great as it could have been because they would be more fragmented today. Now, they must acknowledge that they have a serious problem at hand to deal with as a political party. If they do not accept that they have problems, then their situation will get worse. Maybe, if they had supported Johnny Briceno when he was their leader or held a convention a year ago to select a new party leader, the election results would be different.
An American president by the name of Harry Truman said years ago: “A house divided cannot stand.” This is a true statement and that is what is affecting the PUP today. Before the elections they pretended as if they were united when they knew that they were divided. Who were they trying to fool? The people of Belize know that the party is divided because 11 of their candidates were calling for a leadership convention but the people who own the party were ignoring them. A leadership convention is going to be held now on January 31, 2016, and if they try to rig this convention their party will be destroyed.
The People’s United Party has never had a black leader since John Smith and Leigh Richardson, two of the founders of the party in the 1950s. The leaders most people identify with PUP are George Price and Said Musa. This might be the right time to give a black person a chance to lead the party. I know Johnny Briceno and his entire family from he was a youth, when I was a police officer in Orange Walk Town. He is mixed with several ethnic groups from Belize.
I travelled this whole country playing football, in his father Joe Briceno’s Bronco along with his cousin Renan, Cheesie Flowers, Mark Anthony Chavarria, Enrique Carballo and others when I played for All Orange Walk Selection. Johnny can go anywhere in the country of Belize and get the support he needs. Is he going to run again for the leadership after the way the PUP old guard treated him? This is the question that he has to answer for himself. When he is finished answering this question, then he will decide whether to run or not to run.
They did not maximize his presence while he was their leader and they blew it. In the next few weeks, one of the PUP elected representatives will have to decide if he or she wants to become the leader of his party. I think that Cordel Hyde made a mistake by going back to PUP. He should have followed Mark Espat to leave them for good.
The PUP’s love Cordel Hyde but are worried about the influence his father Evan Hyde is going to have over him, if he was to become their party leader. The old guard will do everything in their power to try and deny him the leadership of their party. Even if he was to win his party’s convention as their leader, they will undermine and frustrate him as they did to Johnny Briceno so that he would leave the post.
Jules Espat will not win a national convention because he does not have that grassroots support throughout our country of Belize. Kareem Musa is too young to be the leader of the PUP and his father’s ghost will haunt him. Also, I think that, after Said Musa’s reign, the ethnic groups in Belize have become skeptical about the role the Arab ethnic group is playing in Belize’s politics. Belizeans are not saying this publicly but are whispering to themselves.
Francis Fonseca is not from that ethnic stock but was seen as a person who was playing their games and had no control of the party. This issue must be raised within the party because ethnicity plays a role in politics. All political parties should have a “non discrimination clause” in their party’s constitution and a board with all the ethnic groups of Belize represented on it to ensure racial justice.
Whoever wins the PUP convention as their party leader will have major challenges ahead. If the old guards try to hold on to the leadership of the party, they will further isolate the grassroots members of the party and they will not remain members of the People’s United Party (PUP) this time around. This convention that is coming up is a do or die for the PUP’s and they better don’t take it lightly.
The Belize Progressive Party must call a convention and to elect a party leader and their executives if they are serious about becoming a force in Belize politics. Belizeans are tired of seeing independent candidates and new political parties when elections are called and then disappear after the elections. When people see these individuals and political parties they look at them as spoilers, people who are paid by one of the major political parties PUP or UDP to take away votes from the majority political parties so that one of them could win the elections over the other.
Normally, they do not get enough votes to win the election and sometimes lose their deposits. The BPP must start to organize their party throughout the entire country of Belize as of now. They must start to look for candidates to contest the village council and municipal elections that are coming up soon. If they do not start doing this, then when another general election is called they will end up in the same position. Belizeans do not have time to vote for a party that cannot win a general election to assist them when they are in need. They consider it a waste of their votes.
The elections are now over and the political parties will regroup and prepare for future elections. I will continue to monitor the political events in my beloved country Belize.