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.
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.