Belize’s Democracy: 2015, 2016, And Beyond
“No tyrants here linger, despots must flee; this tranquil haven of democracy.”
—Samuel Haynes, Belize’s National Anthem
Just over six months ago, Belize held its national elections. The country selected leaders for its 31 constituencies spread over 6 districts, as well as voting for Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister. The outcome of these recent elections, held on Nov. 4, 2015, was historical.
This was the first time in the country’s history—since independence in 1981—that the same Prime Minister (Honorable Dean Barrow) with the same party (United Democratic Party) was elected for a third straight term, gaining more seats in the House of Representatives than on its previous victories.
This year also marked an increased participation by women in the political process. There were 11 women candidates out of a possible 88, a 12.5%. There was also large participation from Belizean youths.
An observer team from the Organization of the American States was in Belize to oversee the conduct and procedures of the country’s electoral process. This mission was made up of 13 officials from 11 countries. Between them, they managed to visit 162 of the country’s 225 polling booths, in 30 of the 31 electoral constituencies. That’s a total of 72% polling booths that they were able to witness firsthand.
The team was impressed with what they saw and are satisfied that, once again, Belizeans have demonstrated a commitment to the continuation of a peaceful constructive democracy.
Jacinth Henry-Martin, Chief of Mission, took note of the significant preparations that the Belize Elections and Boundaries Department made in collaboration with the other members of the public service.
All polls opened on time at all locations; all essential materials arrived on time, and the poll workers did their best to ensure a smooth process. Security was out in force to ensure voters’ safety, as were helpful poll workers and party agents.
At the end of the day, polls closed on time, and all procedures were adhered to. The simultaneous counting of ballots was also a streamlined and fluid process.
Belize is home to a very functional democracy, with great emphasis on order, popular education, and the inclusion of all society in one democratic process. The country is now an example to its regional neighbors, able to carry out peaceful, cooperative elections, with a strong emphasis on participation.
Like all nations—particularly developing countries—Belize has come a long way in the face of many challenges… and faces many challenges ahead.
As in much of the world, there is no way to separate the politics from the economics and/or history of this little democracy. But the stable and cooperative nature of Belize and its economy makes for a healthy political environment.
…And has contributed greatly to the country’s positive relationships with regional neighbors and with countries around the world. The relationship with Guatemala right next door has been strained over the years by a hovering claim to either all of Belize’s territory, or at least some of it. This is a dispute that has been alive since the 1800s, and efforts are being made on both sides to get it resolved in every way.
Meantime, the relationship between Belize and Guatemala is the best that it has ever been, with the Guatemalan President coming to pay a visit to the Prime Minister of Belize, congratulating him on his recent victory for a third straight term, and inviting him to his inauguration as the new President of Guatemala. Never have the trumpets of peace and neighborly cooperation been sounded so loudly, especially in the hearts of the people of the two countries.
The entire character of the nation of Belize—culture, personality, landscape, along with all other advantages—has resulted in the country being one of the #1 jurisdictions for retirement, relocation, vacation, and real estate investment.
Belize It Or Not
Cho! — What on earth!
Fu Chroo? — Really? (Is that right?)
All governments of Belize have committed to preserving and securing the sectors of the country that have contributed to its success in raising the standard of living for locals and attracting foreigners: financial services industry, international banking, eco-tourism, national infrastructural development, etc. Modernization of Belizean politics, business, law and legislation, tourism, infrastructure, etc., has been and continues to be a priority.
The country is proud of its standing in the British Commonwealth, the Organization of American States, Caribbean Community, and Central American Integration System, offering a haven for retirement and investment, vacation and snow birding.