Prime Minister announces general elections on March 5th

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 13, No. 3            January 30, 2003

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Both of Belize's political parties took to the streets to campaign last Friday after hearing that Prime Minister Said Musa had set March 5th as the date for the country's general elections, the same day scheduled for municipal elections. After stating he had "deliberated on this matter very carefully," the PM advised Governor Sir General Colville Young to dissolve the National Assembly on February 4th, 2003, and to arrange for nomination day to be February 17th.

    Aware that the date slated for elections (March 5th) falls on Ash Wednesday, a day of special religious significance for most citizens, the Prime Minister further declared March 5th, 2003 a Public and Bank Holiday to accommodate the time necessary for people to fulfill both their religious and civic obligations.

    Prime Minister Musa listed his reasons for choosing this date, rather than an earlier one as: 1) Municipal elections must, by law, be held on that date, and 2) Holding both elections on the same day would save money and energy by not duplicating the financial expenditures and human resources necessary to conduct elections. Speaking of other concerns he claimed, "A nation that is in the middle of a drawn-out election campaign, whose leaders must concentrate on campaigning rather than on facing the difficulties generated by world events, is not good for the country." Another consideration mentioned was not putting people to the trouble of going to the polls and waiting for long periods twice within a short period of time, in order to exercise their right to vote.

    Another matter that needed to be rectified was the time left for citizens to register to vote. As the law currently states, those voting in general elections must be on the roster by nomination day or in this case, February 17th. The implications of this would be that only those who registered by the 10th of January, two weeks ago, would be able to vote in the general elections. As the law now stands, those voting in municipal elections will have until February 10th to register. This will give time, as the law requires, for the lists to be published by the 15th, giving citizens until February 25th to make objections, and provide the courts time to hear and rule on these objections.

    To that effect, the Minister responsible has signed a Statutory Instrument, which was laid before the House, to allow that all who register by February 10th be able to vote in the general as well as the municipal elections.
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