Voters oust Belizean government

FILE PHOTO: Belize Prime Minister Dean Barrow signs the Paris Agreement on climate change at United Nations Headquarters in New York
Former Belize Prime Minister Dean Barrow as he signed the Paris Agreement on climate change at United Nations Headquarters in Manhattan, New York, U.S., April 22, 2016.
REUTERS / Carlo Allegri, File

Tired of the same government for almost 15 years, battered up by a tanking economy from the COVID-19 pandemic and the 2020 storm season, Belizeans voted out the government of Prime Minister Dean Barrow in Wednesday’s general election that saw a record high voting turnout of 81 percent.

The economy of tourism dependent Belize has taken a battering, leaving the Caribbean Community nation in Central America in a depressed state, with the situation aggravated by the challenges of the corona pandemic.

A retiring Dean Barrow had handed the leadership of his United Democratic Party (UDP) to Minister of Education, Patrick Faber but voters switched allegiances to the People’s United Party (PUP) of  former deputy prime minister John Briceno, 60.

Going into Wednesday’s contest with 17 of the 31 seats, early reports are indicating that the PUP could romp home with as much as 27 seats, making it a landslide of sorts and suggesting that the electorate had grown tired of the same old leadership.

The PUP’s victory now means that for the large number of elections in the CARICOM single trading bloc for this year, the only ones to have changed governments are Guyana, Suriname and now Belize, all three are mainland continental countries that are full of resources including oil and gas, bauxite, gold, diamonds, fisheries and timber resources among others. Voters in Jamaica, Trinidad, St. Kitts and St. Vincent had failed to kick out governments and in the case of Jamaica, St. Kitts and St. Vincent, their governments increased their parliamentary leads.

“It is with extreme gratitude that I address our nation tonight fully aware that this 2020 election is a clarion call for our young nation to grow up, to face the challenges of our generation and to advance our peaceful and progressive revolutions. But most importantly to bring our people together as never before so that as one we can build a nation where everyone matters and everyone is once again to be a proud Belizean,” said Briceno, as he thanked “my wife who is very emotional.”

Opposition Leader Faber conceded defeat late into the night and wished Briceno “a successful administration. “I call on all our people UDP’s, PUP’s and those that voted for the third-party and independent candidates to choose national unity as we band together in the face of the challenges we will no doubt face. While there were winners and losers, the democracy that we have continued to enjoy throughout the life of this great young nation is by far the greatest winner today,” said Faber.

A total of 88 candidates from four parties had contested the elections.