General Election Set For November 11, 180,000 Voters Will Choose
After weeks of intense speculation, the Prime Minister has finally set a date for the 2020 general election.
It will be on November 11th - 37 days from today.
So, the steps towards that are as follows: first, the National Assembly will be dissolved tomorrow, October 6th,
And then 15 days later, in October 21st, nomination day will be held.
And then, three weeks after that, it will be the elections date,
Importantly, even though parliament is dissolved, the constitution provides that the Prime Minister and his ministers retain the power of government up until the election.
Section 84(6) reads, quote: "During the period between the dissolution of the National Assembly and the appointment of a Prime Minister after a general election, the government of Belize shall continue to be administered by the Prime Minister and the other Ministers and Ministers of State of the Government."
So, to be clear, the executive retains its power to run the country.
Now, a little more than 180,000 registered voters are the ones who will have all the power on November 11th, but the experience they face at the polls will be very different due to COVID 19. All safety measures, including mask wearing, social distancing, hand sanitisation and no large groupings will be in effect at the polls.
That's a big change and the Chief Elections officer discussed it via zoom video conference:
Josephine Tamai, Chief Elections Officer
"Persons will now go to the polling stations. They will be expected to they has to be sanitized to enter the polling stations, social distancing the 6 feet social distancing will be strictly adhere to. We know it is the law that persons are required to use a face mask. That will be one of the things that will be strictly enforced. When the persons enter the polling station we encourage persons to take their voter's identification cards. The person will hold their identification cards themselves and announced their names. If they don't posses an identification card they will just announce their name and one of the reasons being that we don't want for the elections staff to have to hold anything that is unnecessary. Once the person announces their name they will need to take off their mask briefly for approximately 10 seconds, because we must identify the person. Whoever is there that this is the person who has presented him/her self for voting. Once that has been done the person will then be required to have his/her finger re-sanitized before dipping their finger into the electoral ink. Priority will be given to person who are disabled, the elderly and pregnant women. Those persons will be allowed to go to the front of the line. In communication with the ministry of health we have been informed that the risk is very minimal, if any at all, in terms of persons coming out to vote."
And, when it comes to counting the ballots, there will also be a major change there. All the polling stations will turn into counting stations, so the counting will not be done at central locations as in the past. This will make for a speedier counting process - and less social crowding.
There will also be a big change on nomination day. Usually, those mass political parades end up at large government complexes or town halls where all the candidates for that municipality and surrounding areas are nominated.
But, not so this around - that would cause too much crowding. Tamai explained:
Josephine Tamai, Chief Elections Officer
"Where we would normally have nomination for Belize City and you know its several different constituencies. What we are doing this time around we are identifying locations in the different constituencies so that nomination is spread across to avoid having so many persons in one location at any one time and it's something similar that we are doing in the other municipalities and in all constituencies to spread across and I will emphasized that sanitization will be done at nomination centers throughout the day and also at the polling stations throughout the day as well. Election day it will be something similar whenever we meet with the political parties we have to ensure that we don't have person even crowding up at a gate."
So, how do persons who are COVID 19 positive, and under home quarantine vote? Well, the chief elections officer told us, quote, 1. If you are in isolation or in quarantine, whatever quarantine laws that are in effect at that time will determine how you vote. Sounds like a cop out, but she says the quarantine authority determines movement of infected persons.